Patronising Passion?

May 20, 2006

I contributed to a comment stream over at Creating Passionate Users recently and meant to come back to it to post something here in response.
Kathy posted a really interesting article on criticism. She says

The tricky part is that the criticisms aren’t always wrong. It really might be all hype. It might be BS. It might be just a fad, or the same s*** with a new name. But things are rarely that black and white. Where there is passion (not just fad or fashion), there is something real there. Something that some people see and feel. But the key point to keep in mind–and the one that offers a simple solution–is this:
People will sometimes diss things they know very little about

In my response to a really great article about the value of passion (in all its forms) I said:

Sometimes the uninformed criticism is a reaction to being patronised and I think advocates and evangelists for various products/services need to be careful that they don’t cross the boundary between enthusiasm/passion and being patronising. Ultimately, we have to make it possible for people to say “I don’t like that” or “I don’t know” without imposing a value judgement. I’ll never get golf…I don’t think my life is in any way diminished as a result…the more I can admit that then the less I am likely to take a cudgel and bludgeon golf lovers to metaphorical death!

I sometimes come across this situation with client organisations which are so enthusiastic to promote the value of what they do that they sometimes forget that not everyone sees it the same way. Take golf for example (and I apologise in advance to any golf playing readers). I don’t play it, I probably never will and I remember feeling distinctly patronised by a friend on one occasion who suggested that I was missing something by not trying it out. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything and felt then that I’d never walk onto a golf course because it would be proving him right, me wrong and as a result I haven’t entertained the notion since. He made it difficult for me to see the value of it by assuming a high moral ground about the value and I made it impossible for myself to see the invitation by reacting to it.
I agree with Kathy that passion comes in all shapes and sizes and needs to be attended to. I also believe that creators, consultants or whomever need to moderate our enthusiasm so that it comes across as an invitation and not the potential sound of a door slamming.