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Believe in Criticism, Believe in Yourself

April 16, 2014
Ekaterina Moustafina

In our latest blog "Criticize This!" we learned why at times negative feedback has such a strong effect on us. Hopefully you discovered something new about yourself (if not, may I suggest you reread the first part: "Criticize This!" ) and have been practicing paying attention to the way your react to criticism. I concluded the post by promising that next time we'll look at turning the "not so positive" client's or boss's feedback into an opportunity to grow as a designer.

Now of course there is obnoxious and unfair criticism. You have to keep in mind that not all clients worry about your self-esteem when telling you that they do not like your work. Today though, we are talking about constructive criticism, the one that can actually help you.

You're probably wondering how criticism could possibly help. But how on earth will you improve your work if everyone told you: "great job", or said nothing at all? Let's look at a few different ways of receiving negative feedback and using it to your advantage.

Anticipate: Your client's different background and experience will cause him/her to look at your design from a different perspective than yours and consequently interpret it differently as well. As smashing magazine's article "How to Respond effectively to Design Criticism" by Andrew Follett suggests: you have to anticipate disagreement from your customer and respond in a professional manner without letting it affect your ego. Do not take it personally. Consider it as a different approach to solve the problem.

Your work is you right? Well it doesn't have to be. Your work is your way of solving a problem. Someone else's work is their way to the solution. So there is you and there is your solution to the problem. If people do not agree with the answer you propose, it doesn't mean that they do not agree with you as a human being or that they do respect you less. I think that I can safely say that it is a struggle for all of us. But feedback, especially negative feedback doesn't have to drive our self-esteem into the negative. If we all learned to professionally accept criticism, we would be quicker to recognize why the client wants the design differently. After all, he knows his product and clientele better than you do.

Your critic is actually trying to help you. If you get criticism from your colleague, your client, your boss etc the initial reaction like we said in the first part, will most of the time be to get defensive. But in point two, we learned not to take it personally. To help you not take it personally, you have to understand that essentially your critic is trying to help you. They want you to see the issue from a different perspective. If they didn't believe you can deliver an even better solution, they wouldn't bother sharing their opinion and ideas with you. But because they are doing so, they believe you will take their opinion into consideration and rethink your design solution.

As you can see, criticism is much better perceived when we do not let it affect our ego. When received openly, without defensiveness, negative feedback can be used to help us grow and come up with better solutions, designs, projects, ideas etc.

To summarize, do like in martial arts: 'accept the attack' and then use your opponent's (critic's) momentum to return the attack, and by that we mean surprise him by becoming even better, 'wow' him or her with your new ideas.

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