Criticism is an unavoidable part of life. We all face it in one form or another. Your kids don’t like the meal you’ve prepared. Your doctor thinks you need more exercise. Your employer isn’t impressed with your proposal for the next big project. Dealing with this feedback is an essential skill both personally and professionally. For the purposes of this post, I want to look at how to deal with criticism in professional settings. I’ll leave the personal issues to someone more educated than me.
Those of us who create for a living are regularly confronted with opinions about how we should do things differently. Sometimes it’s helpful, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s solicited, sometimes it’s not. Knowing how to listen carefully and absorb those interactions is imperative. Doing it well can lay a foundation for a successful career. I’ve come to understand that all professional criticism leads to either improving my work or strengthening my resolve.
If you’re like me, it can be difficult to endure an open critique over something you’ve created. When you pour your heart and soul into crafting an idea, your creation can feel like an extension of yourself. At that point, it’s understandable when criticism of your work gets misconstrued as personal in nature. Separating yourself from your work is a very important first step towards dealing with professional criticism in a healthy manner.
When feedback is constructive and reasonable, it’s in my best interest to set aside my ego and allow others to help me improve. Honest critiques are helpful in building self-awareness as to how my work is being received and how it’s affecting others. When I get invested in a project, it’s easy to overlook unintended consequences or a clichéd approach.
Sometimes, mediating criticism is a function of educating one party or another. Maybe I haven’t fully understood the problem before offering a solution. Maybe I didn’t communicate my thought process or reasoning effectively. Slowing down to ensure I understand the root of a critique can be enlightening. It makes me a stronger communicator and ultimately a better idea man.
Then, there are times when criticism is simply that; criticism. It’s not constructive, it’s not in line with your stated objectives, and it wasn’t solicited. Use those interactions to form a thick skin and reinforce the reasoning behind your methods. As they say, you can’t please everyone. I’ve come to find rest in that statement. The best I can do is create with conviction and invite others to join me in the process.
I’ll leave you with one final thought; when you find someone who is great at delivering thoughtful, constructive criticism, keep them close. Not only are they investing in you and your ideas, they’re willing to be honest. I don’t need help falsely inflating my ego with vapid encouragement and reassurances. I delight in those who challenge me to cross new boundaries and reconsider my status quo.