No one likes criticism; let’s get that out of the way. What we want is constructive advice on how to get better or how to solve problems.

Depressed dog

When it comes to me, the only time I want advice is when I ask for it. Over the years I’ve had to learn “how” to ask for it. In other words, when I ask for advice I want something specific instead of global. As an example, I might ask someone to look at a sentence that seems awkward and ask for their opinion on it, rather than asking them their opinion on an entire article. In my opinion that makes sense.

Still, sometimes people do ask for criticism. Every once in a while they get what they want, and in that case life is good. Sometimes the criticism you get might not be what you want but it’s what you need. Other times… well, we’ve all been there.

What’s bad criticism? When there’s nothing positive offered or nothing helpful, it’s bad criticism. Sometimes people don’t know that the criticism they’re giving isn’t helpful, either because they just don’t know how to be helpful or you haven’t helped by telling them what you need. Here are 5 tips on how to get what you need.

This article will offer ways to ask people for advice and how to accept criticism, even when it’s bad criticism. Let me know your thoughts (yeah, I guess I’m asking for criticism) later on.

1. When you need help, make sure you ask the right people for it. One of the problems most of us end up with is that we’ll ask people who don’t have experience in what we need for help rather than asking someone who might really be able to help you. If your friend fixes cars every day for 10 hours, asking them for help with your blog is illogical, no matter how smart they are.

2. When you ask for advice, be specific in what you’re looking for. When I was writing my first book someone I knew asked if he could see a portion of it, so I sent him the first 50 pages. He wrote back asking me if I knew anything about writing and formatting a book. What he didn’t do was give any commentary on what I’d written, which is what I wanted him to critique. It was an early draft that I hadn’t even finished, so everything he said wasn’t helpful. Instead, I shut down and thought about giving up the idea of writing the thing… for about 2 hours. If I’d been weaker I would have just quit but I knew better; after all, what had he ever written?

3. If you start whining or complaining about something, you almost have to expect that the person you’re talking to is going to offer something, positive or not. Two problems most of us have is that we don’t qualify the person we’re talking to all the time first, and we don’t tell people what we really want before we open up. I forget to do these sometimes and I end up not enjoying the conversation later on. I’ve also been on the advising side, although much more rare because most of the time I don’t like giving advice unless I’m specifically asked for it. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize when someone needs help versus when someone wants to vent.

4. If someone starts offering criticism, even if you’re thinking about arguing with it, try to at least let the person finish their first thought, in case they might be right about something. Yeah, that’s hard to do, and yet sometimes the person might be spot on, and you just didn’t want to acknowledge it though you realize it is true.

5. If you feel you’re getting beaten up, you have the right to either tell the person you don’t want to hear anymore or leave. Sure, you might need the help, but if all you hear is negative stuff, with no idea if something positive is coming, you’re not going to respond well to it, no matter what’s coming afterwards.

You never know how people, including clients, will react to what you say to them. If it’s true about them, it’s probably true about yourself. The wrong words can stifle action; try to get what you need, when you need it.