- Students worrying that their bad grades are a sign of stupidity (or the converse, that they are smart, so they should get good grades).
- Authors of books I review getting upset at my reviews and deciding that further contact and conversation is not worthwhile from such an "unfriendly" guy.
- Pundits, readers and bloggers who take my criticism of their ideas as ad hominem attacks on them.
It seems to me -- trying to understand how people react -- that many other people have not gone through this process. They've been trained to feel good with an "A", a gold star, a promotion or a bigger salary, and bad with their opposites. Unfortunately, this system creates personal (and interpersonal) tension at the same time as it drives effort, and it's difficult to keep the two apart, to not take failure personally.
And so it seems to be this dynamic that upsets people when I criticize their work. Although we may be able to agree that my critique is not of them, such a superficial understanding or comment may not be able to overcome years (or decades) of feeling good about yourself when someone praises what you do.
[My mother's] Bottom Line: We are all doing the best we can. Although we may be punished or rewarded for bad or good work, we should not forget that we are all equally good humans.