It has been said that the two most sensitive people in the world are artists and writers. This is often proven in how the two groups take criticism, which is a regular part of our chosen professions. Perhaps this is because we all tend to put so much of ourselves out there when we craft our art. We are opening ourselves up to review, and we all want what we create to be well received.
As a blogger, you are even more vulnerable to negativity. Not only are you writing on a much more frequent basis, but you are doing so on a system that allows people to hide behind anonymity. This makes those who would usually refrain from cruelty much more willing to sling hurtful comments with no productive purpose.
Of course, there is also good criticism, and this is what we should use to further our own talent. Knowing what we are doing wrong might be hard to swallow, but it is a bitter pill that is necessary if we want to better ourselves. That makes learning to take it, accept it and use it so very important. But it is equally crucial that you know how to put aside your feelings and get the most out of other’s observations.
Criticism vs. Cruelty
The first thing you have to do is learn what constitutes constructive criticism and what is just nasty Internet shouting. I have had tiny typos turn into streams of angry readers eager to pick on me and others who have helpfully pointed it out for correction. There have been people hiding behind the anonymous posting button who have told me I am awful for no particular reason and even some who have threatened me.
If criticism helps you, then it is constructive. This means the posters will have a reason for their opinion, they will explain it to you, and they will provide a suggestion in which you can improve. This might be done pleasantly or unpleasantly, but it is still something you can use toward a positive goal.
Anything else, which is mindlessly malicious, angry or insulting, is pretty much just abuse and best ignored.
When you do get helpful criticism, you should be careful that you react in an appropriate manner. This is easier said than done. After all, just because you can use what they said doesn’t make it any easier to hear. Try these tips to keep you centered and reacting positively:
- Calm yourself before responding. If you immediately answer back, chances are you will lash out. You might even end up starting a flame war that could grow way out of proportion. Before commenting to your criticizer, take some time to get away from your keyboard. Go on a walk, take a bath, read, talk to a friend — anything that will loosen you up. Then go back and re-read it with a clearer head. You will probably find your response to be much less vicious than it would have been.
- Be objective about their opinion. My first thought is, “What do they know?” when I get a bad review. Sometimes that is followed by a biased, “They are complete morons anyway,” though in much more colorful language. But if I look at it honestly, I can usually see their point. This is a difficult process that takes practice and more than a little forcing to get done. However, if you can look at their side and find the truth in it, it will make you better at what you do, because you will be able to implement their advice and fine-tune your process.
- Thank the person who criticized you. Yes, the words may stick in your throat a bit, and it can be hard to speak past grit teeth. That is why it is fortunate we are talking about doing it over the Internet, isn’t it? Thanking them for taking the time and effort to address an issue they had with you is just polite and will also show that you can accept criticism with grace. Even if they were unpleasant, it will be a step toward seeing the value in their opinion. At the very least, it will be killing them with kindness.
- Learn from it. Even if you follow all of these tips, they will mean nothing if you just forget the lesson you took away from it. Take the criticism to heart, try to include it in your list of changes and then strive to be better in your everyday work. We are constantly evolving and should be dedicated to improving our own lives and work. Take advantage of this chance to make one of the improvements, even if it bruises your ego a bit.
Jennifer Moline writes about small business, graphic design, printing and freelancing for the PsPrint Blog as well as for other graphic design websites.