Continuous evaluation is inherent part of our social lives. We could be flawless, but we’re not most of the time and the same we can tell about what we do. Thus critique is a natural thing in all societies. Being criticized gives you a great opportunity to get to know a different viewpoint, learn something and become better. Do not ever waste it!

Long time ago I noticed that lot of people cannot endure critique at all. And it surprises me every time I see it happening. Well, not every kind of criticism is worth your time and consideration. Internet for instance is full of jerks that routinely spit useless cursing comments everywhere. Most kind of criticism you can simply filter out - if you know that it brings nothing to table, there is no point in bothering yourself at all about it. What you should particularly pay attention for is so called constructive criticism. You should love it!

Constructive criticism is the best thing you can get as a feedback and you should be always glad of receiving it, even if it has a bit sarcastic or cynical sound (remember, no one is flawless). The simple truth is that there are always people smarter, more experienced, etc. than you, so if they take their time to show or explain to you how wrong you are regarding something, or how you could do something better or more correctly, then do not ever look down on them. Embrace all their remarks, even if they are harsh or maybe even more then. It doesn’t mean you have to necessarily agree with such critique in every detail, but at least carefully analyse it. After all, there is always a place for some kind of dialog, which can be invaluable experience (if your critic is willing to take part in a discussion, it’s not always the case).

So what’s the core problem of people regarding critique? It’s not a fear of critique per se, it’s rather inability to mentally deal with it. By it I mean any kind of critique, and especially constructive one (because it often hits the weak points of our works). Too gentle upbringing enforced in many countries (you cannot even smack your child for doing bad things and so on) may be part of this spreading narrow and dangerous “delicate mindset”. Many communities (you can find them on internet a lot) disallow comments not resembling praises. I don’t like that kind of attitude. Do we have to be silent or say/write “awesome”, “cool” or “great” in every second sentence of the feedback, but we cannot say something is wrong, bad, lacking or incomplete as it may harm the speaker/writer/designer/illustrator/programmer/mate/friend/anyone? It’s ridiculous and the sooner you understand it, the better life you will live.

Being criticized by others is the usual way of evolution and progress, as we all want to become better (or at least: most of us). Be open for critique, but also be open to criticize others as long as you can describe or explain their mistakes or glitches and hopefully show how it could be done better. I truly believe that honesty brings much less harm than lack thereof. Crucial advices to take critique upfront are:

  • don’t be full of yourself (no matter how good your environment thinks you are or how good you really are at something),
  • acknowledge your imperfection (and its obvious consequences),
  • expand your self-distance (the more the better),

(Frankly speaking you should be well aware of all that by now and these advices shouldn’t be necessary. Yet, strangely the self-distance concept, while common in Poland for instance, is apparently less and less practiced (or even known or understood) the more you move in the west direction. Some jokes and flirtation here, can be seen as sexual harassment in USA. Some snide remarks here can be seen as extremely rude in USA. Talking and laughing about your own flaws is a first test of self-distance - give it a try, but do not limit such discussions to friends only.)

My last advice is (ok, I just rephrased what I already wrote into one simple motto):

  • don’t be easily offended, yet eagerly look for and learn from constructive critique!

Finally I have to add that I don’t like the term “thick-skinned”, because it may suggest that it’s something special or maybe even unnatural (human skin is usually not thick, right?). Being insensitive to the criticism (not taking critique emotionally or personally; it doesn’t mean being indifferent about it) is in fact one of the most important rules of successful interacting with others.

Duty Calls