I had an Alissa Jean Lightbulb moment the other day when I realized that I hold some amount of power over the quality of the constructive criticism I receive. This thought lead to my official 2013 resolution – pro-actively seeking constructive criticism. Or, put another way, if I can tell my work isn’t getting the best reception, you better prepare yourself, because I’m about to ask you to tell me how it could be better.
*Disclaimer – This does not apply to personal aspects of me, such as my hair. If you don’t like my hair style, frankly, I don’t care. My hair is my style, which is inherently subjective to personal taste. On the other hand, if you don’t like that last presentation I gave, let’s talk.
In practical terms, I see this playing out in two main ways:
1. Reading people/paying attention/being observant/picking up communication cues – The first part of constructive criticism is realizing that something isn’t as good as it could be or that the desired audience didn’t respond as well as hoped. People don’t always come out and say “that was lame”, so learning how to notice genuine reactions is important. I’ve sat through the communication sciences classes, I know how this works enough to pick it up. In real terms, I just need to slow down and pay attention.
2. Follow up questions – If something doesn’t make sense, I need to recognize the confusion and find out what is confusing, and how I can clarify. This means paying attention (see point #1) and asking relevant follow up questions.
I think there’s also probably an honorary #3, which is something like “be approachable”. Humans are like pets, in that we default to learned behavior. If feedback if received by an abrasive and defensive Yours Truly, it’s likely that future feedback may not be offered. The opposite is true as well. Not that I would ever get defensive…
Always, Alissa Jean