There’s a fine line between demanding people and fault-finders.

Demanding people bring out the best in us by showing us what worked and didn’t.

We may feel upset that a report we slaved over doesn’t meet expectations and keeps coming back. But the feedback enables us to see what worked and where we’ve made wrong assumptions, left things out or there are areas that can be strengthened. Not only do the insights improve the current report but they also provide a mechanism for review that improves our work in the long term. Every iteration is an improvement. This is constructive.

Picky people are a different beast. They’re not interested in what’s good and bad, what worked and did not they head straight for what’s wrong and focus on nothing else.

There are other ways to describe these types: nitpicking, fault-finding, carping, critical.

The picky can be parents, partners, colleagues, friends, ourselves. What they have in common is that no matter how hard you try or what you accomplish it is never enough. The subtext of course is that: nor are you.

If you just tried harder, or were that little bit better (their disappointment says) they would be proud.

Don’t be fooled. As soon as you reach the goal post, it will move.

This sleight of hand creates a perception that their reaction has something to do with us (and at times it might). Typically there’s a history littered with those who fell at the sword of their expectations, not because they were discerning but rather because they were disparaging, not because they wanted to bring out the best in others but because they needed to bring them down.

For the picky value is relative. For them to be up, someone else must be down.

Picky people –

  • Change ‘the’ to ‘a’ only to swap them back the next time the work comes up the line
  • Skip past the As on your report card to the only C
  • Rant for an hour about the single thing that went wrong in an otherwise positive and productive day
  • Don’t notice the clean house, full fridge and hot meal you managed to conjure up after work because they’re too busy repacking the dishwasher you’ve already packed
  • Say your idea is wrong before you’ve said it

Not good enough, not good enough, not good enough.

They may not mean to send you the message that you’re incompetent and only they know how to do it – but they do.

They may not intend to establish themselves as the benchmark against which others should measure their worth – but so it is. ‘This is how I do it’, they say, implying that others should too.

Their approval is always out of reach. It is intended to be.

What picky people are really after is your energy. By making approval something you have to work for but can never attain you provide fuel for their voracious need to feel wanted and important.

It’s draining.

Secretly, picky people are insecure. Rather than address that they make ‘not enough’ about you.

At first, we spend a lot of energy trying to please them.

We work harder, think faster, try again, act differently, experiment with the cooking. We don’t understand that they need something to rage at.

The problem for picky people is that once we see through this, we give up trying to please them at all.

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