I admit it. I love watching the TV show, Dancing with the Stars. For me, it’s more than entertaining. It has shown me what it takes to be a champion artist and business owner. The behind-the-scenes look at the star’s journeys each season makes it very clear: winning doesn’t happen by magic. The stars put in long hours. And they handle feedback better than the average person.
Although the stars occasionally take criticism personally, it’s a luxury. If they don’t turn it around and use the criticism, they knock themselves out of the competition. The athletes, in particular, use the criticism to motivate and inspire themselves. I think that’s why so many athletes end up in the semi-finals, often beating out artists who have more stage presence, a dance background and experience with entertaining live audiences.
We artists are often too sensitive. Instead of allowing feedback as they do on Dancing With The Stars, we defend against it. We think that because someone doesn’t like something we’ve created that it means our work is bad; or that we aren’t talented enough. Worst of all, we use feedback to validate a lack of self-worth which erodes confidence. In other words, we take feedback too personally.
Knowing that criticism is necessary and healthy is easier than actually taking it. Following are four tips that have helped myself and other artists to handle feedback more like a champion.
1. All feedback has value, but it’s not always right. The person who criticizes you may or may not know what they are talking about. They are mirrors. If you have a strong reaction to their criticism, then they are probably telling you something you are already telling yourself. Do you really want to talk to yourself that way? If not, get in touch with your internal critics and soothe them. How do you know if feedback has value? If you hear the same feedback from three or more people, you might want to take a closer look. For instance, on Dancing With the Stars, when the judges told a contestant a few times that he needed to get more technique, he spent hours focusing on developing more. When more than one teacher gave me the same criticisms about my writing, I had to stop feeling frustrated and upset and experiment with doing it differently.
1. Find a Coach or Mentor who Has Already Done What You Are Trying to Do. I met a coach and a teacher who had helped several people grow their businesses in the same way I wanted to grow mine. I attended several of his classes and heard the feedback that he gave to me and others. I noticed that I agreed with what he told others. This was important because when he came around to critiquing me, and I didn’t like what he told me, I reminded myself the insights he was offering were probably on-track. After all they had been for everyone else.
2. IF POSSIBLE, DON’T TAKE CRITICISM PERSONALLY. When you feel shame, embarrassment or become defensive about criticism, it’s a good indication you are taking the feedback personally. For example, when someone says “I don’t like the style of your painting,” do you translate that into “I am not a good painter”? If you take feedback about your work as statements on your self-worth, you are making criticism more painful than it has to be. What if someone says you are a bad painter? Then it will be up to you to remember this person does not have your best interests at heart.
3. How Do you know feedback is true? If different people keep giving you the same negative feedback over and over again, pay attention. While that doesn’t make it true, it does warrant you slowing down and noticing for yourself whether or not it has some weight. Ask yourself, “Is it possible this feedback is true?” If your answer is NO, then ask yourself “Are you sure this feedback is not true? Is there any truth to what they are saying? And how can I use this information for my own advancement?
What about you? What has helped you to take things less personally? How are you using feedback for your own advancement?