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Taking Criticism

Posted by on March 15, 2016

Starting out in business, in a new venture, in a new direction, you’re going to make mistakes. It is inevitable. I talked about mistakes in my last article, and how if you take the lesson from them, and if you can recover from them, and not hold onto them, then mistakes can be very educational to you. But what else happens when you start out? What other ways do you think you suck, when really, you don’t?

shutterstock_98139248_650If you make a mistake, and someone tells you off, and shows you what you did wrong, then you feel awful. Of course you do, someone said mean things and made you feel like crap. Why? Because they’re better than you and want you to know it. This is a crappy thing to think, but it is what goes through you mind. Let it sit there, digest it, and then wisp it away with a wave of the hand. So someone has an ego they want to shove down your throat. Let them. Not all the world is full of these people.

As a writer, I deal with editors a lot. And, as an editor, I have had to be mindful of what I say. However, my writing community is used to cutting commentary, editing which cuts and bleeds. As long as the edits and critique are constructive, as long as if you don’t like something, you say WHY you don’t like something, and as long as it is not personal and is open for rebuttal, harsh criticism is okay.

Unfortunately, outside of my writing community, such harshness is not really done well. People seem clumsy in giving criticism, and some people are unable to accept criticism. And that is okay.

You are not required to do either to be a good person.

Remember that.

However, if you can put aside anything personal from the criticism, and if chocolate or a tub of ice cream helps, then I am all for that, try and dig out the core of what the criticism is all about. If a person full of bluster attacks the logo you designed for them because it is just crap, firstly, that is not real criticism; but secondly, start to think why he might say that or believe that. What is it about that person who might not understand why you did what you did. If you’re working with someone who has loved black and white lettering in 18pt font for 20 years, and you give them something modern, and they hate it, perhaps catering to their needs, with smaller changes, might be more beneficial. Perhaps your vision, what you know to be awesome, is not the same as what THEY seem to think is awesome. And, if they are the client, then you should aim towards what they want.

What is the lesson to learn from all of this? Understand the client, how to work your magic into the boundaries of your client. Understanding who is open to new ideas, and who is not yet ready for the 21st century. It will teach you about PEOPLE, and how some clients work. It will also teach you the signs to recognise these kinds of people, and how to find ways to not work for them. Find the clients you WANT, not the ones you NEED. A business coach once told me that if a client comes along and rings alarm bells, make the price extraordinary. If they still agree, then it is possible the dollar figure may make up for the difficulty. In truth, I don’t think there is enough money in the world to handle 10 edits, of which we had returned to the second draft anyway, and this client just wanted to re-draft and provide feedback and want change, purely because they did not know what they wanted.

And then, if you have someone who has been in business for 20 years, come back to you and tell you why what you provided does not work for them, and they express it in a way which is constructive, you will still feel awful for not making it right the first time, however, you can use this feedback on how to make it right. There are people out there who understand that first draft is just that- a first draft, that you will not hit the mark on the very first go. Work with these people, absorb their feedback, adopt it to your work, and LEARN.

If you never received feedback, if someone never criticised you, then you’ve never ever found boundaries and rules with which to guide you. You need some reality checks, so you don’t begin to believe that you can do anything and people will still love you.

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