Criticism. It’s that painful but necessary person at the party that we’d love to avoid but can’t live without. Hate it if you must, but criticism is one of the best ways to advance, especially when it comes from esteemed colleagues and mentors. The better you become at handling criticism, the better your creative work turns out to be. This is because other opinions show us the way to blind spots that we may have missed.
Seek out criticism
What? Seek out criticism, you say? It sounds absurd, doesn’t it? Well, maybe it does, but get that thought out of your head. It’s not absurd. Seeking out criticism is one of the key aspects of development. If your end goal is finding treasure, you sure as heck won’t get there without the map. See criticism as a map of where you need to go in terms of your skills.
Gather up your friends, family, and teachers. Sit them down and ask them for some honest feedback, paying close attention to how you request it. People are often more intuitive than we give them credit for. If you approach them seeking advice, but give off some vibes that you won’t take criticism well, then they’ll be less likely to give an honest opinion. It helps to go in with a humble approach. You want them to think that you are open to criticism and encourage frankness. So when they give it to you, don’t go storming off and pout in the corner. Use that criticism as a map to the next step in your career.
Don’t be afraid to branch out and seek criticism from people you don’t know, too. While it’s good to get a perspective from loved ones and mentors, accessing unbiased opinions can be even more valuable.
Listen to the criticism
You can’t just seek out criticism; you actually have to listen to it and act upon it. It’s not always fun to hear out criticism, but a little practice goes a long way.
Become an active listener. What exactly does that mean? Well, for starters, look and sound interested in your speaker. If you show some interest in what they’re saying, you’ll encourage them to go into more detail and expand upon their thoughts and feelings, which will result in better feedback for you.
Maintain eye contact, but not too intensely. Maintain a body position and facial expression that shows you’re attentive and not bored. All of these active listening cues will help people open up to you more so you can get true criticism.
Respond with respect
Look at being criticised as a gift. Thank the people who take the time to evaluate your work, whether that criticism is productive or not.
If you don’t understand their opinion, ask for some clarification. With an upbeat tone, respectfully ask why they said what they said. Appreciate the feedback and, if you want, encourage more. As we now know, this information can lead to improvements and new discoveries, so you should be probing for feedback at every chance you get.
You never really know what you might find from being criticised. Seeking it out is an art, but it’s not hard to master. Once you find it, apply what you’ve learned and you’ll begin to produce better work than you would have otherwise.