One of the biggest ways to grow—both personally and professionally—is to learn to accept constructive criticism. But this is far easier said than done.
When it comes to getting my work critiqued, I can get super defensive. Being a creative person, I pour my heart and soul into the content I create, so hearing someone say it didn’t resonate or it ‘just wasn’t for them’ really hurts.
Regardless, though, I know that people’s thoughts can be really important in shaping me into a better writer. (Within reason, of course.)
It’s important to think about perspectives outside of your own, especially when it comes to creative work, because everyone is different. You’re not only creating to you, but to an audience. And when you tap into (and accept constructive criticism from) this audience, your work will inevitably strengthen and grow.
Here are ways to accept thoughts and opinions on your work (without losing what makes you unique).
1. Keep an open mind.
Everyone has an opinion—remember that. And remember that someone’s opinion of you or your work doesn’t define it.
That being said, keep an open mind. You’re not always going to create something that’s exceptional—unfortunately that’s a cold, hard truth of life. Welcome different ideas and perspectives. Learn to accept things that challenge what you’ve known, or open you up to new views.
And above all, know that critiques don’t have to completely reshape how and what you create. They can simply influence.
2. Expand your mind by getting out of your comfort zone.
Sometimes there are limitations on the content we produce because we only know our experience. Although it’s great to ‘write what you know’ (as a writer) or create something that resonates with you personally, it’s equally as valuable to get outside of your comfort zone.
Instead of always defaulting to what you’ve always done, try something new. You might fail, you might create something you hate, and you might be frustrated or face harsh feedback. But all of this will help you grow and keep you from going stagnant.
3. Take deep breaths before you respond.
Sometimes people will say something that really upsets you. It’s okay to feel those feelings, but what’s not okay is exploding on the other person because you’re hurt.
If you find yourself overreacting or wanting to lash out, take a moment and breathe. This will help to re-center you, calm your mind, and allow you to have a more professional response. (Which is good regardless of whether this constructive criticism is in a personal or professional sphere.)
4. Recognize what’s not actually constructive and learn to let it go.
Sometimes people will give you their ‘well-meaning’ advice that isn’t actually well-meaning at all. Whether they’re misinformed, uneducated in the subject, or just trying to get a rise out of you, it’s important to acknowledge what’s actually constructive criticism, and what’s just trying to tear you down.
Here are some examples of constructive feedback. They may or may not apply to your industry, but try to read them within the lens of the work you create.
”I like what you did with ___, but I think you could benefit from ___.”
“Your concept is strong, but I think something that’s lacking right now is ___.”
“I love what you created! It seems very personal, though, and I’m wondering if you could try ___.”
“I think you should create something that’s ___ next time. I’d love to see what that looks like.”
What separates these statements from negative feedback is that the speaker is leading into a solution. It’s important to note that the person isn’t telling the creator what to do, or flat out saying they don’t like what the person created. They are giving an opportunity for potential improvement without knocking the quality of the work produced.
5. Ask questions to deconstruct what’s been shared with you.
When someone shares their opinions on your work, you’re bound to have a bunch of different feelings and reactions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to understand what the person is saying.
This will help you to unpack and make use of the criticism in the way it’s intended—to help you improve.
6. Say ‘thank you’ and request a follow up.
No matter how much you appreciate or hate the feedback you’ve been given, thank the person because of the time and effort he/she put in. A ‘thank you’ can go a long way in terms of creating relationships and potential referrals.
If relevant, request a follow-up so that the person who gave you the constructive criticism can see the changes you’ve made and potentially give you more.
Remember the benefits of receiving feedback (even if it’s difficult).
Feedback is essential to growing you as a person and creator. If you don’t have feedback, you’ll never know ways that your writing can change or build—and that does nothing for you!
Even if the feedback you’ve received is not what you expected (or downright painful) remember the benefits of receiving it in the first place. What doesn’t kill yo/u makes you stronger! Right?!