If you look at a lot of science fiction films, where a group of people are in danger, you will always see that one character that has something to say about the how the leader is leading the group. Or you have the guy that’s trying to build the next space warp engine, but everybody is saying it can’t be done. We may not be fighting aliens everyday, but there are many days when we are just minding our business, trying to create or produce something, and a person passes by and says “You’re doing it wrong.”
We get hit with criticism all the time. Especially if we’re doing something that’s creative and takes vision. Ironic that it is called ‘vision’, because often people have trouble seeing it. Anyway, you could get criticism from your neighbor over how you cut the lawn “You’re not doing it Right.” Geeks are probably the worst to get criticism from. Yeah, we know a lot, but it doesn’t mean we know everything.
Most of the time our natural instinct is to react against criticism with a negative response -“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Or you might give an excuse as to why you’re doing something the way you choose to do it. The excuse might be valid, but if it is just your knee-jerk reaction to people when they criticize you, then you may be missing an opportunity for improvement.
WHEN IT IS NOT A CRITICISM
The difference between a criticism and a critique is that criticisms are usually some type of shallow advice. People that criticize don’t highlight any problems you may have in your work, and don’t leave you with suggestions that help you reach your goal. Critiques on the other hand give you advice that you can use.
One way to turn a criticism into a critique is to ask the person “What do you mean?” Initially that will help any negative reactions you might have. It gives you time to think about what was said. Second, you might get the advice you need to improve your work or project. Those 4 simple words can change the conversation, and possibly the success of your work. Now if that person can’t explain their criticisms, which is usually the case if they are just hating, tell them that it’s not much of a help if they can’t say what’s wrong. After that you can pull out your official HATER stamp.
CRITIQUE THE CRITIC
As people explain the problem they see in your work, ask yourself if the criticism or critique is coming from a place of knowledge, experience or emotion. Think about how much this person knows about the artistry or skills needed for your project. Does he or she have more experience than you with this kind of work? Or is this person bothered by what you are doing or how you are doing it? Are they speaking from a place of fear that something will turn out wrong? Are they embarrassed that you are doing something different and you might look… foolish? God forbid you embarrass them in the process. Or are they concerned because they have done it before and want you to learn from their mistakes? Depending on what you conclude, you can console them or ignore them. Just make sure they explain to your satisfaction. In that way, you both will realize if they are speaking from ignorance, emotion or experience.
THERE’S A LITTLE GOLD IN THE ROCKS
One of the important things is make sure you aren’t dismissing something that might help you, even though the criticism may be hard to take. There may be a little gold in all that dirt that’s being kicked at you. Don’t let your pride pay the price for a failed or sub par project that might have been successful. If a criticism is hard to take, respond, but let it sink in for a day or two. Let the cream rise to the top. This is especially good for those of us that just go against eeeeeeeverything that people say to us all the time. I get like that sometimes. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot.
GET IT FROM THE REAL DEAL
If you want critiques, get them from experts. Not your family, not your friends, not the brothers in the barbershop (unless it’s about cutting hair obviously). Don’t ask someone about something they don’t know about. Because if they say your work is good, you’re just getting a pat on the head from someone that cares about you. And if they say your work is bad, they won’t really know what the heck they are talking about. An expert can see where your level is at, and how your work can progress or improve. They can give you helpful tips instead of guesswork that ‘sounds good.’
But even in the case of good critiques, sometimes we have to do things our way. We are unique, and we may just do things different from how the world does it (that’s another topic on how we are built). Remember, there are times when we just have to do things the wrong way, but that might be the only way we can learn how to do it.
Don’t let the haters get to you. Find the gold in every criticism. Don’t let being offended get in the way of your success.