Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Creative Growth: Coping with the Critics

One of the most difficult things for a creative to do is to put the little piece of ourselves which is our creation out into the world for others to judge. I really struggle with this myself. I have posted before about dealing with self-deprecation as a deflection, but never about how to deal with negative feedback so when I received an Oprah link on Dealing with Criticism via email I read it with great interest and it got me thinking about feedback, criticism and personal growth. There is a difference between mean baseless put-downs and constructive criticism. The difficulty comes in being able to shield oneself against the mean and yet remain open to the constructive. I have seen a lot of different coping mechanisms, but here are the three common forms of criticism and my thoughts on coping and growing. I would love to hear your ideas as well!

The Mean

Let's face it - sometimes people can be downright mean.  So what do you do when you feel attacked by the critic?  The counter-attack is my least favourite: unless you have no alternative, don’t drop to their level. When looking from the outside in (and your clients will), I find the counter attack can be as off-putting as the comment that caused it. Putting the comment out there for feedback and community support can be acceptable under certain circumstances and unavoidable in others – especially if the criticism comes in an open form such as on your facebook or blog. I would like to recommend that you brush it off and ignore it completely, but there are times when that is very hard to swallow.  Ultimately, I agree with the advice in article: this is the time to be your best self.  Be the bigger person.

The Founded

Were you late with your delivery? Was it faulty? Accept your knocks, apologise, and make amends. After the initial complaint is handled, reflect on what you can do to make changes for the better in your business practices or creative arts to prevent it from happening again.

The In-Between

Constructive criticism should be the “best” criticism, but it can be the hardest to handle emotionally. It has a basis, but the fault isn’t a simple to accept as a lost parcel or a broken zipper. Usually, the person giving it is genuinely interested in improving us but it can still be really hard to listen and accept. So how do we drop our defenses, dry the tears, and open ourselves to growth?
  • Park your emotions and listen. Constructive criticism shouldn’t be taken personally, just professionally.
  • Listen to (or read) the words and ignore the tone and level. Constructive value is often lost in the delivery of feedback.
  • Is the criticism valid? Often we place a greater value on the praise that we receive than the criticism. Praise is validation and immediate gratification, but criticism can be used for growth which leads to a far greater long term reward. Take it into consideration.
  • Acknowledge the feedback. Then take some time to reflect and decide if, how and when you will use it to take constructive positive steps towards growth.

What are your personal experiences with feedback, good or bad?  Do you have any advice to share for our readers?  We'd love to hear from you, and share and grow together.

Tarawinona on Etsy Shared with thanks to the artist - please visit her Etsy Shop. :)


  1. This is something that all us creatives struggle with! When I am not painting I work as a creative in events, where our critics number as the audience, the crew, our clients and ourselves! It can be hard...
    I once worked with a brilliant man was able to approach the process with the eyes of a child. With each critisicm he would reply 'that's interesting!' and look at the comment without it stinging his heart. I learnt alot.
    I am honoured that you found my 'Listen' painting helpful for this article. Thankyou!

  2. I loved your post! Right now I am being my own worst critic and it has affected my creativity to the point where I have not felt art singing in my soul. Thus, no creativity.
    I shall have a look at some of the links and see if I can find an oasis in the desert.
    Penelope's Mom

  3. Tara, it was my pleasure. I think that there are many things in this world that would be better if we had the same openminded wonder as in childhood.

    Penelope's Mom, when things seem bleak, use your trusted friends. Ask for oppinion, constructive feedback, a giant hug, a cup of coffee, a break from the everyday - whatever it is you need. I hope you find an oasis of creativity. Hugs to you. OOO


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