Never assume that every critic is a hater. Not everyone is hating on you. Some people are telling you the truth.
Taking criticism can be a difficult thing. At some point in this arts world so dependant on reviews and opinions, you will encounter a customer or audience member – maybe even a reviewer – who wants to tell you how to do things better. It can be hard to deal with; after all, nobody likes to be told they’re wrong. But it’s not all bad news because sometimes you can use criticism to give you a competitive edge.
Criticism is a form of communication
If someone has a criticism it means they want to give you feedback on what you’re doing for them – that means an opportunity to learn more about the person who you’re working for and how to convert them into a satisfied customer or audience member. Take a moment to think before you respond to what they’re saying – in business, working with someone who is patient and able to receive and act on criticism means both parties can work towards a better outcome. For a play or production, it might mean getting to know what your audience actually want.
Feedback helps make your product stronger
If you always think you’re right but don’t get feedback from anyone else, how do you know for sure that what you’re doing is any good? Whether you’re selling or performing, whether it’s a product or service, listening and acting on those honest views will tell you precisely what’s good and what can be done better. Use that information to change your performance, service, exhibition or event – sometimes it will make for uncomfortable listening but it can make your product stronger as a result.
It forces you to think about how you work
Constructive criticism can guide you away from bad practices and towards good ones. Try to be objective and look at what you’re providing as though it’s not yours. This can be particularly difficult when you’re deeply involved in a project but, if you can take a step back, you might see how to improve your way of working and avoid any negative outcomes down the road. Did you need a more specific brief? Was there something you missed in the early stages of the project? Is the performance deadline too unrealistic?
The right kind of criticism can give you an advantage
Think about it: if you can get a customer to tell you – and just you – how to give them the perfect product or service, that’s information you’ve got that no one else has. That puts you at an advantage over anyone else in your sector and can be used again in the future to get things right, even faster. Find ways to squeeze that information from your client or audience and get them to tell you what they really want.
Use positive language, elicit a solution
The language you use in response to criticism is vitally important. Try to avoid getting into an argument. Instead, turn the exchange into a discussion about how to resolve the problem. This way you’re still in a position to get paid and you’ll waste less time guessing how to put things right. Consider phrases like:
“OK, so you’d like to see this design changed – what would you say is the main thing that ought to be different?”
“I can see why you say that. Let me tell you why I did it this way.”
“I’ve thought about what you said and what I’m going to do is…”
Turn your words into action to show that you can listen to feedback, respond in the correct way and still get the job done.
Don’t take it personally
Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t immediately like your work. Even if you feel you’re being criticised unfairly, don’t retaliate with an extreme knee-jerk reaction or else you can irreparably damage your prospect of working with that client or audience and can even harm your reputation as well.
There will be occasions when you feel the criticism is personal and, now and then, you’ll be right. People are fallible and it’s important to remember to not be offended by someone’s remarks. However, a good professional is able to take criticism on board and not respond as though it’s a personal attack. They are also able to make it work to their advantage or, if all else fails, politely conclude the partnership and leave with their reputation intact.