When someone asks why they’ve failed at some endeavor, do you tell them it’s because they’re up against people who are cheating their way to success? Or maybe that they’re being too self-critical, and their effort isn’t as bad as they think? Or do you tell them the truth — that their effort is poorly done? When a writer asks why a book that’s been available for a long time (more than a year) has only one or two reviews, and those are mediocre, what do you tell them?
It should be considered a kindness to let them know why they failed, but these days, that can provoke a tantrum rather than a willingness to take another look and try to discover what they’ve done wrong. Truth-telling is a kindness, but if it’s asked for and rejected, all you can do is shake your head and move on, knowing that the questioner wanted sympathy and an easy solution, not hard truth. This morning, I joined another person in replying to a pained query, both of us pointing out significant problems, including writing that would probably get a grade of C- in a fifth grade English class. It will be interesting to see what the reaction is. Or if there is one.