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Killing the comfort zone

Why negative feedback is good for you

Let’s face it, most of us hate being criticised. But to achieve our full creative potential, we need to seek out the opinions of our worst critics

That was one of the key messages from the latest ‘unleashing creativity’ workshop, run by elearning veteran-turned-artist Richard Hyde for the THRIVE content team. But why is that the case? And how should we handle our critics’ comments?

Get into people’s heads 

When you visit an art gallery, do you look at the paintings first or read the little explanatory sign next to them? The approach you take can make a huge difference to your interpretation. And that’s something that’s relevant to online training too, Richard told us. 

Sometimes leaving gaps in what we tell people (the online version of omitting the gallery sign) can create a more profound message. That’s because people pay more attention to stuff when they’ve had to put effort into adding two and two together themselves. It’s all about trusting the audience to make their own connections, rather than pandering to them with overwrought content. 

To do this, we need to understand how people might interpret what we’re showing them. And to do that, we need to know who our audience is.

Inspired by the work of Mark McGuinness, Richard explained that there are four classes of people we should pay attention to…

Four types of reviewer

  1. Mentor
  2. Peers
  3. Critics
  4. Audience

We should seek feedback from all these groups, but Richard argued that, really, the only people you can rely on for truly honest comments are your critics. 

Think about it. Do you have a mentor? (If not, get one, says Richard.) If so, are they brutally honest with you, or do they sugar-coat negative comments to protect your ego? Same with your peers. And your audience? Well, they might not know how things could be better. 

Your critics, on the other hand, have little vested interest in pleasing you, and you can rely on them to have a highly analytical approach to your work. 

A plan of action

So, as content creators, what does this mean for us day to day?

Well, first of all, we need to seek out the opinions of our worst critics. Who are those people for you? Your competitors, perhaps? Is there already someone out there criticising what you’re doing? Get as much feedback as possible from people who have no vested interest in you feeling good about yourself. 

Next, it’s time to develop a thick skin and take that feedback on board without getting defensive. Easier said than done, perhaps. But essential if we’re going to reach our full potential. Get into a growth mindset and sort the genuinely valuable comments from the stuff that’s said with an agenda.

The final step is to use those comments as a starting point to try new things. Like McGuinness says, even if we end up scrapping the new approach, at least we’ll have explored different perspectives. And that’s at the heart of creativity. 

Love the haters

If you’re anything like us, you’re always looking for new ways to be more creative. So why not invite your worst critic to pull up a pew and give you the unfiltered truth? If nothing else, the more we perceive negative comments as an opportunity to grow creatively, the less power they have to hurt us. 

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