June 13, 2019
How to convince people that you actually want criticism
Most people just hate criticism. And it makes sense, it's a deep part of our human nature to protect ourselves. In a long life, I've learned that even the most confident-looking of people have doubts. And when those doubts really add up, it can destroy a person's willingness to be creative. And that's why it's best to not criticize people, even if they ask you for criticism. And so most nice people will just smile and say, "That's great!", when you ask for criticism, and move on.
If, however, you're trying to improve something, whether it's your golf game or your technique with Photoshop, it's good to actively seek out criticism. You are, of course, going to get a lot of stupid comments from people who never seemed to understand that criticism isn't appreciated (I call that "comments from the peanuts gallery"), and if you want genuine criticism from people who know, and who understand how offensive criticism is, you'll have to do a bit of work.
As a teacher, I rarely met anyone who actively sought criticism. There was one student that I remember, who said "Stop just giving me As, tell me what I can do to improve!" He meant it. I went carefully through his entire portfolio, devoting a lot of my time, and pointed out things that he could improve.
Asking people for criticism is quite a compliment - it means that you value their opinion. For a lot of people, this takes them by surprise as they begin to do what had been requested, only to find that the requestor is now on the defense, and they're now in a fight.
If you find yourself just gently patted on your head all of the time, and never get any criticism, it's your fault - you anger easily, and get defensive. So take a deep breath, and make a decision as to whether you want criticism, or if you just want to defend yourself.
If you have the guts to drop your guard, the right person will appear, and probably has been there all along, to help.
Posted by Brad Hall