Friday, May 21, 2010

Simon Says

I know this will come as a complete shock to those of you who think I’m scholarly and mature (does anyone think that?) but I really like American Idol. I have downloaded Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox’s recordings from I tunes and look forward to watching live every Tuesday night. I’m a music fan, I practically chose my college because of this, fell in love with my husband at Jazz Fest- you get the picture. Yet what I really enjoy on Idol is the judging. At times the performances are fantastic, many are painful and the judges have to comment on them afterward. Oftentimes the judges try to make nice. Paula Abdul was known for remarking on a contestant’s outfit when there was nothing else positive to share. Most of the judges are honest. Nobody is more honest that Simon Cowell.

Simon Cowell makes no attempt to cushion the blow when contestants falter. If something is terrible he is not going to say “it wasn’t your best.” He will likely say it was appalling or horrendous or a train wreck (and in that case it probably was). You can see the singers waiting for Simon’s comment unable to gauge things until he speaks. After all, praise from him is as genuine as his critique. Strangely enough, there are some similarities between what I do, at Foodtrainers, and the judging on idol. Clients keep food journals and come to sessions to discuss their eating and exercise regime. There are times when clients may say “the week was OK” and I look at their journals and think otherwise. I am confronted with a choice to politely point out how things could’ve been better or to bluntly say “this wasn’t a great week.” I’ll admit, with clients and nutrition I often feel it’s most productive to take an optimistic, supportive stance. There is so much, when it comes to weight loss, that is filled with guilt and negativity that I don’t think I need to add to this. So does that make me a Paula?

What’s funny is that some of my client meetings are conducted via phone. I’ve noticed that when I am not face to face with a client, I can be more honest. It is hard to say something insulting, even if true, while looking someone in the eye. I cannot imagine what it’s like in front of millions of people, with a live audience and probably the contestant’s entire family nearby. I think it takes a ton of courage and confidence. Simon is leaving American Idol; next week will be his final week of judging. Perhaps the show will fill his seat with someone else who is brutally honest. However, they will have a tough time finding someone who is honest without malice, honest and always aims to be constructive though maybe stinging a little at first.
Do you have a “Simon” in your life whether a friend or family member? Do you think honesty is the best policy when giving an opinion? Do you like American Idol too?


  1. Considering what I ate last night, I'm glad to hear you'll Paula me when you see my food diary...

    And if it's business, is it insulting? I mean, you can give tough feedback and not insult the person whose behavior you're reviewing, right?

  2. I try to find a balance in my job between being positive and supportive while also being honest and straightforward. I want kids to reach for their aspirations, but my job is to be realistic with them and their parents as well. In working with you, Lauren, I have found that your honest approach has been very helpful. I don't need to you tell me "good job", if I'm not doing a good job. I need you to tell me that my impression of "good job" is inaccurate and point out ways I can do a better job.

    I overheard a conversation w/ two parents at a soccer game. Parent 1 told her kid that he did a great job on the field when he didn't. Parent 2 told her kid that he tried hard, but that he was outplayed a couple of times. Both kids went back to the field, and Parent 1 told Parent 2 that Parent 1 should be more supportive otherwise his self-esteem would be shattered. Parent 2 explained that she wanted her child to trust her and that honesty helped build that trust between them. This exchange has stuck with me for years.

    I'd rather be supported with honesty than enabled with "support".

  3. I will never forgot this older doctor on teaching rounds with us when I was a fourth year medical student...We were all really off our game that day and could not answer any of his questions. His response was "in two months you will all be doctors...that scares me."