Don’t let a little criticism stop you.
We recently took a look at why we shouldn’t be afraid to criticize creativity. There are ways to effectively critique someone’s ideas, and often the big breakthroughs and “a-ha!” moments come from leveraging the contrasts from those critiques. Avoiding criticism robs us of that and can actually be damaging to our final product.
That’s all well and good, but it still remains that not everyone is that great at taking criticism. It has a way of making us feel defensive — even if (and sometimes especially because) deep down we know there’s some truth to it.
However, criticism can be extremely helpful, especially when it comes from someone whose opinion matters and is delivered in an effective way, so let’s at least try to be better at taking it!
1. Don’t Try to Avoid Criticism.
The only way you can avoid criticism is by doing nothing. Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.
Of course, then people probably will just criticize you for all that nothingness.
What a boring life — and you’ll get criticized anyway!
You have a gift you want to share with the world. Your desire to share that gift — and your desire for success and personal fulfillment — must outweigh your fear of criticism.
2. Decide Who Gets to Criticize You.
Listen, not all opinions are created equal.
Yeah yeah, I know I just told you not to avoid criticism, but that doesn’t mean you have to listen to all criticism. There’s some criticism that should be taken with a grain of salt (or even not at all).
You must decide who’s criticism matters and who’s doesn’t.
For example, let’s say you’re creating a new logo for a local ice cream shop. After a few tweaks, the owner — who, you know, is buying it — loves it. You did a little market research and found the majority of local patrons responded positively to the new logo.
However, your 97-year-old Great Aunt Suzie who lives seven states away and is both diabetic and lactose intolerant says she thinks the logo is confusing.
Sure, that’s an extreme example but you get the idea. Who’s criticism matters more in this scenario?
3. Think About the Intent of the Criticism.
Just as you need to identify who gets to criticize you, you need to identify the intent of the criticism.
Some people offer criticism — whether directly or indirectly — because they genuinely have an opinion about your work or product and they want to help you.
Others “offer” criticism because they want to hurt you. Generally, this criticism is negative and has nothing to do with your work; it’s a reflection of the person’s feelings about you and what you’re accomplishing. They’re afraid, they feel inadequate, and they’re jealous. So, they try to tear you down to make themselves feel better as well as:
- Discourage you (if you’re discouraged you’ll stop with that awesome thing you’re doing!).
- Influence the way others see you and your work (she’s not that cool!).
Learn how to identify when someone is hurting you rather than criticizing you, and keep it moving.
4. Take a Beat Before Responding to Criticism.
Don’t immediately respond to negative criticism, especially if there’s a chance:
- The criticism came from someone who doesn’t get to criticize you.
- The person is criticizing to hurt you.
Giving yourself a chance to think about these things before you react will save you unnecessary altercations.
Additionally, think about why you’re having such a strong negative reaction to the criticism. Is it possible that it’s shining a light on some of your insecurities? Did the person point out an actual issue you’ve tried to ignore? If so, swallow your pride and work on the issue; don’t lash out at the criticizer!
5. Respond to the Suggestions.
This last one is a simple one.
Respond to the suggestions within the criticism, rather than the tone in which they were offered. Someone lacking tact might have some useful ideas on how you can improve your work; don’t let those ideas get lost in a snarky or rude delivery.
Talk to me! How well do you take criticism? How have you handled someone who offered criticism as a way to help you? What about hurt you? What tips can you offer someone who can’t stop being defensive in the face of criticism?