How to Take Criticism Like a Pro
by Kristy Cartmell, Designer / Social Media Specialist
I’ve been a creative person since the day I was old enough to hold a pencil in my hand and with that lifestyle comes great opportunity…for criticism. Whether it’s from a professor, client, or employer, it can always leave a sting, no matter how long you’ve been in the business. Believe me, I’ve received my share of criticism and I will continue to do so. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Through critiques, we grow. We gain new perspectives, inspiration, and ideas. It can help us achieve personal and professional goals. So this isn’t something that remains exclusive to the creative industry – we all have faced criticism at some point or another in our life. Wherever that criticism comes from, I’ve compiled a list of helpful tips to accept it with grace.
- Expect it. No one is safe. It’s impossible to assume that every person out there will like you, that every person will want to be your friend. In a professional setting, it’s about your work. Not everyone will agree with the way you do things. Everyone thinks their way is the best way and you can’t run from it. Face the reality that criticism will always be coming your way and keep an open heart and mind.
- Take time to reflect. More often than not, critiques do not require immediate action. Change is something that happens with time and reacting too quickly can often overwhelm you and make you feel cornered and lead to inadequate, ineffective results. Take time to consider the most effective plan moving forward after receiving a well-meant, valid critique. Any knowledgeable critic will understand that these things take time and effort and will often willingly continue guiding you in the right direction if you’re still experiencing complications, doubts, or uncertainty.
- Remember to stay calm. If you’re like me, it can be easy to jump the gun and defend yourself. However, sometimes you just need to take a deep breath, smile through it, and use this opportunity for self-reflection. Sometimes we may feel like every criticism is a personal swipe, but by changing the perspective from one that is negative to a positive opportunity for growth, it can be much easier to remain calm and carry a better attitude going forward.
- Be discerning. Not everyone is in a place where they’re able to offer valid criticism. Sometimes a critic lacks the knowledge or skills and feels a sense of entitlement. It’s important to recognize what is valid versus what isn’t so that you can only focus on the constructive.
- Ask questions. When someone is critiquing your work, it is okay to have questions. Asking questions lets the critic know you’re willing to learn and grow and in return, gives you an opportunity to gain knowledge on something you may not have considered before. Keep in mind that you’re always vulnerable to learning, especially in a professional setting.
- Express appreciation to a critic. Let a critic know when they’ve helped unlock a better, more creative, or more inspired perspective. Everyone likes feeling that their help was appreciated so don’t miss out on this opportunity. Expressing appreciation may help bridge the gap between the two of you.