Home – New Forums Other discussions How to handle criticism. Should we stop trying to be ‘thick skinned’?

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  • #984547
    ScarlettR
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    Another thread on a graphic design forum got me thinking, and I wondered if we’re approaching how to process criticism in a way that doesn’t really work with the human mind.

    I think we need to change this perception that in order to hear constructive criticism we need to be ‘thick skinned’. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t get a bit wounded from hearing criticism and trying to believe we can be thick skinned doesn’t help, because we’re forever trying to be something we can’t.

    As human beings we wound easily, especially when we work on creative projects with our hearts and minds.

    I think the new way people should approach criticism is:

    1. Understand it’s going to hurt. It might hurt a little, it might hurt a lot. But don’t fear the pain because it’s temporary. If you accept the hurt you understand how little power it truly has over you. Understanding the hurt helps you to understand your own inner conflicts and vulnerabilities and to work with them more positively.

    2. Take the time to step back. When stuff hurts you can’t expect your mind to produce rational responses. Give yourself 48 hours minimum after asking for critique before actually taking action and making responses. Giving yourself time allows you to see your project objectively and not be so attached to it, and therefore you take on the feedback in a much more constructive way, knowing what will work and what won’t instead of just telling everyone they’re a-holes.

    3. Appreciate ourselves for the work we’ve done to that point. It’s easy to say “this is a piece of rubbish” because all we hear are others saying “no good” “try again” “seriously?”. But you can’t get to that point without trying. And you can’t then move on from that without hearing it. Every project we work on is worth our time, no matter how little or how large. If it brings us happiness then there is no harm that ever came to refining a skill, or talent, or habit.

    We gotta give ourselves a break. Criticism can do wonders for us if we let it, but we can’t just make ourselves ‘thick skinned’ to handle it. We’re allowed to be vulnerable and sensitive, and the more you allow those parts of you to exist in a loving, peaceful place the more we allow ourselves to become great.

    It’s just my 2c, but I’d love to hear what you guys think. The more I deal with criticism the better I get at hearing and handling it, so obviously point #2 reduces dramatically. But even teaching kids how to take criticism in schools… can you imagine what sort of impact that would have on so many creative industries?

    #1148318
    bluepenguin
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    Good post.

    I think whether you put your thick skin on or not depends on where the criticism is coming from. Some people are good at constructive criticism, and some people are big, fat bullies!

    In the case of the latter, unfortunately there are people in this work that for whatever reason, thrive on bringing others down or have control issues. As a designer, it’s important to develop enough confidence in your work to be able to easily identify and shrug off unfair or misinformed criticism and continue with your life.

    On the other hand, working with people who are good at giving constructive criticism can be really beneficial and enjoyable for both parties. Allowing client’s to “collaborate” a little with you can make for very happy clients who hold a great sense of pride in the finished product.

    #1148319
    The Copy Chick
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    bluepenguin, post: 170048 wrote:
    I think whether you put your thick skin on or not depends on where the criticism is coming from. Some people are good at constructive criticism, and some people are big, fat bullies!

    Absolutely!

    The reality is, some people are good at giving constructive criticism, some people are bad at it, some people might be having a bad day/week/life, and other people are just plain nasty.

    Unless it’s from friends or family, it’s usually not personal.

    #1148320
    Johny
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    I agree that I don’t know anyone that really likes to receive criticism.

    In a former life I was in banking, and when I started in that work I knew of bank managers who weren’t averse to sending something whizzing past your ear as their way to point out their criticisms.

    But I think criticism can be a good thing. Constructive criticism is good as long as you act on it, and people just criticizing for the sake of it, well it tells you something about that person.

    I don’t think real or constructive criticism is about being thick skinned or not. I think it is more about taking responsibility. People don’t accept responsibility for anything these days. They don’t like criticism because its always someone else’s fault. (A bit of a generalization, but true in many regards I think)

    I prefer to know when a customer is critical of me as I would hate to lose them over something that cold have easily been resolved had I known about it.

    #1148321
    ScarlettR
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    I absolutely agree that there is a distinction between constructive critique and an unhelpful kind.

    I wanted to write this thread as an afterthought from witnessing both constructive and unconstructive criticism on a different forum. What I realised (for myself mostly) is that whether the critique is constructive or not, by following these steps to allow yourself the space and time to process it, once you return you can then have the clarity to identify what feedback is constructive and what isn’t.

    So often threads are derailed because they get so heated as people take feedback very personally, especially when it feels like an attack rather than feedback. That’s why I wondered why we’re asked to ‘suck it up since you asked for it’ (specifically if you’re posting work in a critique forum), like we’re supposed to expect poorly given feedback and identify it straight away.

    Critique is such a personal thing that, in my experience, when I first hear it and if it’s brutal mentally I just go into lockdown and I can’t identify the good from the bad. That’s why I was thinking taking these steps instead of shaming and blaming myself into believing I actually can’t take criticism, gives me that safe space to say “oh yeah okay I see what they’re saying” to the good stuff and “riiiiight…” to the bad stuff.

    #1148322
    Burgo
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    Hey I cop criticism all the time from “Shewhomustbe”.

    The trick is if wether you want to hear it or not.

    If the criticism is constructive you listen

    If the criticism is not constructive delete

    It really becomes your choice. On another forum I often get criticised for the things I say but that’s OK I often voice my opinion. People don’t have to read it if there not interested and if they do and make a constructive criticism then I benefit.

    As you develop you business sense you also develop awareness, and it a learning curve that’s FREE.

    #1148323
    PerfectNotes-Kathy
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    OK – pls understand that my partner has shared his head cold – possibly flu – so I am not quite as coherent as I might be otherwise (in reading or writing..)

    There is a huge difference between constructive criticism and plain old criticism.

    And constructive, you step back, wait a little while, re-read and take on board.

    The other type – you have to find some way to throw away. And no – I haven’t got a working formula for that one – it’s still a work in progress.

    And no – thickness of skin is not relevant – or consistent.

    I guess that’s one of the many uses of these forums – to get some external perspective, when you can’t see it yourself!

    Kathy

    #1148324
    Jodie McLeod
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    Hi Scarlett,

    I think definitely the value of criticism/negative feedback lies in how you respond to it. Calmly and professionally is definitely the best policy.

    Whether you receive it in a forum, on social media or an online reviews site, these tips from Lucinda Lions in her article, “Responding to negative feedback online“, are a great help.

    Cheers,

    Jodie

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