Criticize me, please! No, really! – A to Z Blog Challenge (C) #atozchallenge

Criticize me, please! No, really! – A to Z Blog Challenge (C) #atozchallenge

Part of “Beat your Inner Bully and Find your Confidence” (A-Z #965)
<- B | A-Z TOC | ZtoH TOC D ->

We all want to improve ourselves in everything we do, but especially in our jobs and/or favorite hobbies. Unfortunately, it is not always obvious when we are making a mistake.

We can reach out to our families, our friends, and our colleagues/peers for help in that area, but it’s incredibly tricky – and risky – to ask for and process “constructive criticism” in a way that will help us.

Getting the wrong type of advice not only hits our projects/pocketbooks, it hits our confidence level. Getting good advice, and knowing what to do with it, can make the journey a whole lot easier.


Here are some tips I have come across in my own travels, mostly due to me experiencing the “wrong” kind of “help”:

Solicited

  • If you ask for criticism, be prepared to get it.
    It may sound obvious, but if you reach out and ask others what you’re doing wrong, you need to actually mean it. It is easy to fall into the trap of “asking for help” when in truth you’re just looking for someone to tell you how awesome you did. We all want to be perfect, and we hurt when we realize that we haven’t done as great a job as we thought.
  • Try to detach the mistake from the person
    One way we can cope with criticism is to realize that the feedback is not a personal attack on us, 99.99% of the time (even when the words are harsh). Try to envision you giving the same advice to someone else, or how the information could assist with fixing the problem if you weren’t the one to fix it.

    • Be as objective as possible, taking away all emotions, and focus on how the advice applies to the issue at hand.
    • If it is, however, said in a humiliating manner or specifically meant to make fun of you, don’t ever go back to that person for “help” and don’t listen to a word they say. Nod your head politely, smile, and just walk away and dump that emotional baggage in the closest trash can.
  •  Pick the right person
    The person you solicit feedback from should:

    • Be familiar with exactly what you’re doing.
      • If you’re programming, it should be the same language, same platform, same version.
        • If they’re a fantastic JavaScript and JQuery programmer (client script) they can’t usually help you with SharePoint Solutions (usually compiled code).
        • If they’re a wonderful developer of Web Parts and custom Web Services (compiled code), they may not be able to help with “vanilla” InfoPath or SharePoint Designer workflows (not code).
      • If you’re a writer, they should have experience in the same genre.
        •  If you write short stories, they should write short stories; if you write poetry, they should write poetry; etc.
    • Have exactly the right amount of experience you desire
      Sometimes over-experience is as much of a hindrance as inexperience.

      • If you’re programming, sometimes you might not want advice on the best way to handle a bitwise operator from a senior database architect. Likewise, a junior developer probably never heard the word bitwise before.
      • If you’re a writer, you may want to get advice from published writers. If you’re going for traditional publishing, you may wish to limit your critiques from those published traditionally, and maybe even further filter to those whom have worked with certain types of publishers and/or literary agents.
  • Best Practice versus Specific Situation
    While it’s great to get the “you should almost always do it this way” kinds of advice, those things – while a great start – don’t always apply to each and every situation.

    • Best Practices are there for a reason (such as programming architectural decisions or “basic” writing advice). Don’t dismiss them out of hand unless you really understand what the advice means, and why it would not apply to your situation. Use as much of a best practice as you can, whatever does apply. Don’t be afraid to break the rules, but make absolutely sure you know all of the basics before going in a different direction.
  • Opinion versus Fact
    Even in programming, some pieces of advice are just simply based on preference. If a lot of developers like to camel-case their variables, that’s not necessarily doing anything wrong.
    I’m personally finding so far in writing, that it’s extremely hard to differentiate the opinions from the facts, because writing is so subjective in the first place.

Unsolicited

  • Be careful of advice you don’t ask for
    • Are they being rude?
    • Are they competing with you?
    • Are they trying to get you to buy something?
    • Some other ulterior motive?

Bad Advice

Just keep in mind that if you get advice from people with the wrong focus or experience level, or advice unsuited to your specific situation, it can really mess you up. It starts you down a rabbit hole that either leads you to making bad choices, or at least wastes a lot of your time until you figure out that you really shouldn’t have listened. Then you need to take yet more time going back to fix what you “fixed” when you got the advice.

Not to mention the serious hit to your confidence level – once on the way in, and once on the way out.

YOUR TURN

Please, can you share with us how you handle and process critiques and criticism? Have you found something that works well?

Featured Image
Copyright:  stuartphoto / 123RF Stock Photo

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9 thoughts on “Criticize me, please! No, really! – A to Z Blog Challenge (C) #atozchallenge

  1. I find taking criticism extremely difficult, and I have to get myself in exactly the right frame of mind to accept it and listen. My best method is to take myself off for a walk and work through what I would say to me if I asked myself what I thought.
    That said, your point on whether your criticiser has the right experience for your particular situation is important.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much! When I first reached out for writing criticism – something I’m brand new at – I was initially devastated. Soon thereafter I noticed that my critics were completely contradicting each other :-). So I started wondering – before taking this to heart, should I cross-reference it for accuracy? How can I identify if it’s fact; or if it’s much more of an “opinion” thing and less of a focus on being right or wrong?

      Thanks!

      Like

  2. Hi Sue,
    Perhaps, a helpful way to view criticism is to view it as feedback. I really do believe that more heads will produce a more thorough result as long as it doesn’t end up with that whole committee thing where you somehow end up with a camel. I forgotten how that analogy goes.
    The thing is with writing is that you often need to be intensely focused to do the writing part and I definitely go into the zone…especially in the A-Z Challenge where I’m writing letters to dead poets. I immerse myself in their work, biography etc and then go into the zone and that’s how I’ve ended up with quite varied responses to each poet. There isn’t a prototype and I’ve intentionally wanted them to be like that. At the same time, I’m conscious that each of these poets has a huge following of people who have perhaps spent a lifetime exploring their work word by word and inside out and I know nothing. So, I’ve expected criticism or some kind of challenging response from someone who knows them better and I say bring it on because I want to learn. I also encourage debate because we need to refine our ideas. Even diamonds need to be polished and refined.
    What can also happen when you don’t encounter or embrace criticism is that you can become a caricature of yourself and can become eccentric, mad. You look at Michael Jackson who surrounded himself with yes people. I think it’s worth enduring the knocks in order to be fully functional.
    Also, when it comes to contradictory advice, it quite feasible that both are right and the opposing views need to wrestle it out to find a balance, which will enhance your writing.
    JUst a few points xx Rowena

    Liked by 1 person

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