Accentuate the Positive

This weekend, I went with my wife and son to see the newest Marvel movie, the Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3. Last night, the three of gathered to watch episodes nine and ten of season 3 of Ted Lasso. I wanted to start this post with those experiences and with the following declarations.

I love Marvel movies.

I love Ted Lasso.

I’m sure starting out a post with declaring my love for two storied franchises may seem odd to some readers, but I felt the need to start there. I also want to point out that I didn’t qualify my affections in any way. I didn’t say “I ‘still’ love…” as if I needed to apologize for or characterize my feelings. I love those franchises. They bring me joy.

Some of you may be wondering why I’ve started this post with these declarations of love. One doesn’t have to look far to find criticisms of Ted Lasso or Marvel lately. I find them in my podcast feed, on social media, and in the news. So many people want to tear apart the latest episode, some story line of the movie, or the fate of some character. But the critiques don’t stop there. In some cases, the critics have extrapolated to make sweeping statements about the quality of the entire franchise. “Ted Lasso: What went wrong?” “Marvel isn’t super anymore.” “Ted Lasso is a big disappointment.” Negative generalizations abound.

I get it. People have opinions and want to share them. It’s totally okay for people to say whether they like something or not. I also believe some directorial choices and performances warrant critique. For example, I really didn’t like how the latest Guardians of the Galaxy movie ended. I wanted a different arc for a few of the characters and felt like some story lines went unresolved. But overall, I still liked the movie.

Beyond critiquing things, it’s also pretty natural for us to rank stuff. For example, I like some Ted Lasso episodes better than others. I also enjoy some Marvel movies more than others. It’s okay. Loving something doesn’t mean you have to love everything about it equally.

So, where am I going with all of this? I’ve noticed a trend where people feel the need to over-analyze and critique things without recognizing any positive attributes. It’s not just with Ted Lasso and Marvel stuff, but other things, too. Sports. Restaurants. Books. People rail on the negative stuff or talk about bad things are, without identifying anything positive. There is always positive stuff to recognize. Some people are just choosing to ignore it.

In education, there’s this feedback technique called the “feedback sandwich.” When assessing student work, teachers start by identifying something positive about the work before pointing aspects that need work. The teacher closes with offering some additional positive feedback for the students.  The feedback sandwich is a way to cushion how the negative feedback lands with students.

I guess I’d like to see a little more “sandwich” in the assessments people share. We need to look for the positives and be willing to share them.


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