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.
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 yoh haven’t helped by telling them what you need. That’s why I’m writing this article; Here are 5 tips on how to get the kind of input you’re looking for:
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 actually 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 on what you’re looking for. When I was writing my first book someone I knew, who said he loved reading books, 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, or how to format 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 cone a first edit on, let alone finished, so everything he said wasn’t helpful.
Instead, I shut down and thought about giving up the idea of writing anything 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? After my period of moping I went back to work on the book. but I learned a valuable lesson from a bad experience.
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, and we don’t tell people what we really want before we open up. I’ve forgotten 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, and before I offer my opinion I ask that person what they want from me. 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. That’s hard to do, and yet sometimes the person might be spot on.
5. If you feel you’re getting mentally or verbally beaten up, you have the right to either tell the person you don’t want to hear anymore or just 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.
In my teens I was on a variety of sports teams. Not all of the coaches knew what they were talking about. Some were nice, but some weren’t. I quit once because I didn’t feel I needed to hear anything from this person. I told Dad (the master sergeant) how I felt, he decided to have a talk with this coach (a staff sergeant) about how to treat kids, especially in public, made me to back, and we never anything like that happen with any of the kids, including me, again.
Years later, in college, I volunteered to help coach some of the women on the school’s bowling team. Instead of critiquing how some of them rolled the ball down the lane, I decided to give tips on how they could improve on what they were doing. I knew none of them were going to try being professional bowlers after college, and I wanted them to have fun, so helping them raise their average anywhere from 5 to 10 pins a game helped the team perform better, and that made them feel good.
If you ask someone to be brutally honest with you, and they are, and you don’t like it… that’s your fault. If that’s not what you need or want, think about how to better ask for help or a critique (criticism might be too hard for you to deal with; I don’t like it one bit) that will help you be better at what you’re hoping to do.