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Criticize This!

March 14, 2014
Ekaterina Moustafina

The recent poster series The Client is Always Right by speckyboy magazine was quite brilliant and made me laugh. Although it also made me think that designers must face criticism and misunderstanding of their work quite often throughout their career. That made me question myself: how would I handle the fact that someone, even worse, my client doesn't like my work. Criticism is never easy to absorb. Imagine you put your heart and soul into the project and then it gets rejected, or if you're lucky, lacks appreciation from your customer. Criticism can hurt our self-esteem, bring us down and make us question the quality of our work and competency, or talent for the creative types. So how can you have a successful design career and not get affected by the “debbie-downers”. I did some research on the subject and came up with a few interesting facts.

It is valuable to understand why we are affected by criticism in the first place. Any kind of criticism, especially from the people we respect, or at least whose opinion plays a role in our lives, makes us question our validity. Whatever self-doubt we have hidden deep inside ourselves resurfaces and we are no longer as confident in our abilities as we were prior to having heard the harsh words.  Image

In the article “Why Criticism Is So Hard to Take” Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D explains why upon hearing negative comments we get defensive instead of using criticism as an opportunity to improve ourselves. Dr. Seltzer explains that while growing up the majority of us have experienced some trauma in the self-confidence area. Not intending to hurt the child, the parents unintentionally still do while correcting the child's behavior as he is growing up. Ultimately as we grow older and our personality shapes up, we gain confidence through our achievements and life experiences. As Dr. Seltzer puts it: “We understand we aren't so bad after all...” Consequently our self-esteem should recover from those minor emotional “traumas”. However, it is not always the case and not everyone recovers completely no matter how confident and successful they become in life. This is why when faced with a negative comment, the wounded “child” in us resurfaces and we may have the tendency to react in a defensive manner. Therefore the harder was the childhood - the more pressure the child received from his parents, the harder it will be for him/her to fully eliminate self-doubt.

So next time your client tells you “I don’t really like it”, you will know why you are getting so irritated and defensive about his remark. Simply questioning & understanding the reason behind our emotional reaction can help us control the depth of the effect it has on us.

Stay in touch with us, as next time we will get a little deeper into this subject and see how we can turn negative remarks into something positive.

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