Thursday, December 3, 2009

Critique


IMGP9320, originally uploaded by bjornmeansbear.

Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.
-- Sir Winston Churchill

I'm an enneagram one--I'm a perfectionist. To me, answers are right or wrong. There's room for interpretation or application of the rules, but in the end, either you know your stuff--and the thing is good, or works, or is safe, or is beautiful--or you don't.

So, mostly, I hate criticism. I especially hate criticism that I don't ask for, that drops unasked from the lips of a friend or loved one. It doesn't matter that the criticism is intended to help me correct something entirely avoidable, but if someone notices I've made a mistake, and catches me unprepared, I get defensive, and feel like the world is against me. If I can't take action to remedy the critism, sometimes I feel like everything is lost. My defensive critical mind's reasoning is that mistakes are bad, and therefore people who make mistakes are bad.

It's probably because I have a constant stream of diagnostics and criticism going on in my head. I'm not kidding--I hear that critical voice while I nap! Nicholas Lore writes that it's like having a one arm that's an always-on-alwasy-sharp chainsaw...it's fine as long as you give it something to do, but not so good when you don't put it to work and inadvertently aim it at yourself.

But sometimes, sometimes I welcome criticism. I welcome criticism when I still have options, even while I'm facing a problem, but don't know what to do next, someone outside may have the experience or perspective to know what to do, and I ask for their input, and willingly implement their advice.

I welcome criticism when I trust that the critic has my best interests at heart, that I'm not being put down or categorized forever like a bug in a collection, stuck forever no matter how my arms and legs flail. I can accept criticism from people close to me if I feel that our relationship isn't in danger if I fail to act as they suggest; I won't face rejection if I don't follow their advice or input. We'll be okay even if I repeat the same mistake again.

Even when I'm not feeling stuck, criticism can sometimes be helpful, if it's presented in a context where it's clear that criticism is going to be given, and that I'm not just the recipient, but a co-creator in shared understanding. I first experienced this constructive technique while at art school. Critiques were a regular part of life there, we'd meet to talk about our work or the work of our classmates. We learned to use critique and its methods in almost any situation, from film to architecture, from photography to magazine layout.

Regular critiques served Churchill's healthy diagnostic function, and were both stimulating and highly motivating. Critiques are not about right or wrong but instead taking the next step forward towards the goal.

How To Respond Effectively To Design Criticism - SmashingMagazine
How to Accept Criticism with Grace and Appreciation - zenhabits
Feedback. The Creativity Killer - Six Revisions
How to Handle Criticism - Stepcase Lifehack

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