Everyone who knows me knows that Asimov's words, "Let me make one thing clear. When I ask for criticism, I mean only praise. If you find something wrong in what I have written, you can keep it. I don't want it" resonate with me. So, it is but natural that they will expect this series on Phrases to focus on "I like criticism" sooner or later. Let us relieve them of their tension by making it sooner.
It must be obvious by now that I do NOT like negative criticism. I am of the firm conviction that this is one of those phrases that is almost invariably said when it is not meant. If liking something means the same thing to all people, then it should mean that there is someone in the world who actually feels happy about receiving negative criticism and, bar masochists, I do not think there is any such person. Which means that this is a phrase that actually does not mean what the dictionary says it means when it is used.
Oh! You actually like criticism? Hmm! Let us try you out on an example. Let us assume you are a cook (done too much on literary criticism so let us all have a break from that). Assume further that you serve someone biryani and upon tasting it, he says, "It is yucky!" You are the one who likes negative criticism so you must be going singing around the house and calling up your friends and exclaiming, "You know what! I fed biryani to so-and-so and do you know what he said? He said it was yucky. He REALLY did! I feel like I am floating on air"
No? Ah! This is not what you meant by criticism? Why so? Because, when he said it was yucky, you do not know whether it was because he thinks all biryani is yucky or he does not like this style of making biryani or the biryani has not been made properly? Hmm! So, you do not like this type of criticism but you do like criticism.
Great, then! Let us have our next critic in then. Here he comes dancing in, tastes the biryani and says, "So, you tried a Hyderabadi Dum biryani? Never tasted it made as badly as this" Happy, now? Joyous revels all day and a party to celebrate the occasion? No? Why not? You do not know why he thinks it is yucky? I think you are getting a little too nit-picking here. What? There is no use to criticism that does not tell you what is going wrong and how to improve it? Ah! I see.
Let us have our discerning critic in here. Back comes the same old biryani and our DC has a go. "Mmm! I think the rice is under-cooked and you need a bit more salt here. You probably also need a lighter hand with the masala". Why is your face not lit up with joy? Ah! You wish he had not been so loud with his criticism in the hearing of your family and friends? (It will be an eternal mystery to me as to why compliments are always given in a bashful whisper and complaints aired like an alpine shepherd calling out to his sheep scattered all over the landscape) But then if you have got what you liked you should be only too happy to have your near and dear ones (Ah! how much I have wanted to use that typical Indian phrase - I probably should have omitted the 'ones') learn of it asap. No?
Are you sure you really like criticism? I have tried and tried to make you happy by giving you criticism but you just do not seem to appreciate it. Seems to me that when you say, "You like criticism" what you mean is that you like the fact that it may help you improve yourself BUT the actual receipt of it is not exactly your most memorable moment of joy. It looks like if it is not given politely enough then, though you may end up liking the effects of the criticism, the chap who gave it is unlikely to leave very warm memories in your mind.
That was the exception we have been talking to all this while. The rule is that most people certainly do NOT like criticism but are forced to say so since it has become taboo to say you do not - much like a mother cannot say, "When the baby started crying at 3 AM just as I had sunk into a deep sleep, I felt for a moment like strangling the little monster"
So, if you guys are brimming with those nice little words of criticism and eagerly rushing out to please all those who say, "I like criticism", know that you are not loved. Really!