Qualify Your Critics

Alex Sugg
Alex Sugg

If you make anything that the public sees, you'll inevitably face criticism. We all know the voice of negativity is much louder than that of approval or kindness. One negative comment can steal the joy of a thousand positive ones.

This is wrong.

The fact is, when you make things in public, you are putting your ass on the line to get criticized. That is part of the deal. So what can we do to protect ourselves from non-constructive criticism?

I used to let it destroy me. I put way too much stock in what others said about my work. I knew there had to be a better way to filter the good from the bad. So, I created this little checklist to help me see what was valuable and what was worth throwing out.


Here's how it works…

Every critic of mine is required to pass this set of 3 questions. If it meets all 3 requirements, then I will consider this criticism welcome and valuable. I will use it to better myself and grow at my craft. No offense taken.

But, if it fails to meet any of these requirements, it gets thrown out with the trash. (I guess they were just having a bad day..?) I refuse to spend any more mental energy on it.

1. Is this criticism even real?

Ugh.

This is the first thing you should ask yourself. Are you getting a "vibe" or a "feeling" someone is criticizing your work in their head? Not valid. If someone is passive-aggressive or not saying what they feel, that is not your problem. If they don't say something, trust they don't have anything to say. It is not your job to pry people's opinions out of them.

The truth is, we imagine 99% of "criticism" from others. Imagining someone is grading our work when they actually don't care happens almost daily. Give others the benefit of the doubt. If they have something to say, they'll say it.

If the criticism isn't real? Disqualified.

2. Is this critic a professional in my line of work?

Okay, so the criticism is real and not something we are making up. Next, we need to see who the critic is. Are they a professional in your line of work? Do they have actual experience and credentials to back-up their comment? If so, then you should listen to what they're saying.

If they aren't a pro in your field, their opinion shouldn't matter.

People can yell from their seats on the sideline all day. I've chosen to be a player on the field who listens to other players around me. They have experience and something valuable to teach me. That random dude in the stands… not so much.

If they're not in the game, they can't call the plays. Disqualified.

3. Do they have my best interest in mind?

We have checked 1 and 2 off the list. The criticism is real, and given to me by another professional… But does this critic have my best interest in mind?

Is the person writing a public comment, telling you how horrible your work is where everyone can see? Or did they write you a thoughtful email about it?

Big difference.

One has your best interest in mind — the other does not.

If they aren't trying to make you better, but are trying to tear you down — their comment is disqualified. Just say to yourself, "I guess they were having a bad day" and move on with your life.

If one of these boxes goes unchecked, then it's case closed. This criticism is void, unhelpful, and not of value. I am not offended anymore, and the critic doesn't need to know the difference. Just walk away.

If all these boxes are checked, then you need to consider this criticism and how it can help your work to succeed. Be honest about this person's opinion and find what they have to say on the matter.