writingLet’s say you’re a web designer, or a writer (just for the purpose of this post, so please bear with me). And you’ve just created a new website (or an article). You love it. That thing is awesome. Everything your client could ever ask for. The design – slick. The goals – achieved. The budget – not exceeded. It fits your client’s requirements hand-in-glove.

Then you start thinking: “Wow, I’m so proud of myself right now. I need to show this thing to my best friend, even though he’s not a designer,” so you do.

And what does that traitorous little weasel say? “It’s cool, but I don’t know… This header seems a little too minimalistic. Plus the font is not friendly enough, and I really believe it would have been so much better with a bigger logo.” Just the pat on the back you’ve been looking for…

So what’s the first and only step of dealing with criticism?

Don’t care. You’re not going to please everybody.

I know what you’re thinking, and please don’t scream at the screen. You’re thinking that while not all criticism is constructive you always have to try to extract some valid points out of it.

Well, you don’t. Not in this case.

First things first, let’s start with explaining why you asked for an opinion in the first place, and what was the reason behind choosing that specific person to address the question to.

Were you really looking for an opinion or just a pat on the back?

If you were looking for a pat on the back and you didn’t receive one then just stop right there and leave it, you really shouldn’t care. Just find someone else to ask and try again. Repeat until you get what you want. Caring too much eventually destroys your productivity even more than answering emails.

On the other hand, if you wanted a real constructive opinion, then why did you ask someone who probably doesn’t have any knowledge in that field?

Let me put it this way; would you really care when someone said something like: “I think that medical diagnosis your doctor gave you is wrong! I’m not a doctor, but trust me, I know this stuff. I’ve seen three seasons of Dr. House.” … of course you wouldn’t. You know better than that.

So here’s the lesson. If you want a valid opinion ask someone who can give you one.

If you want a medical consultation ask a doctor. If you want a legal consultation ask a lawyer. If you want a design consultation ask a designer.

If you ask the wrong person, well, you’ve brought it upon yourself, so now you’ll just have to deal with it. Just because someone is your friend/mom/brother/bartender doesn’t make them the right person to ask.

I know that every now and then even a random person can give you good advice, but that’s just life. Every now and then you will find money on the sidewalk, but it doesn’t mean you should make it your new career and search for it 40 hours a week.

I’m sure you will get far better insights by asking just two people (or even one person) who have some experience with whatever you want to ask them about. That is, of course, if you’re looking for a real opinion. If you’re just looking for a pat on the back then go with ten random people.

OK, moving on. What if the right person didn’t like your work either?

Don’t give up. Follow up with that person and ask one simple question: “why?” Always ask “why”. Search for some valid points. Ask until you get an answer like: “I don’t like it because …” Search for the “because” – that’s what’s important. If the person can’t give you a “because” then:

Don’t care. You’re not going to please everybody.

If that’s a really valid “because,” something that forces you to think, something that’s real, and makes you feel embarrassed that you didn’t come up with it yourself, then, by all means, consider it and try to improve your project. Then get back to that person and ask for another opinion. And again – you want a “because” this time as well.

On the other hand, if the “because” is just silly; something like “I don’t like the green theme of the website because I prefer blue”, or “I don’t like your new furniture because mahogany is not really my thing” then:

Don’t care. You’re not going to please everybody.

The art of dealing with criticism is really simple. If it’s valid – care. If it’s not – don’t care, forget about it.

What are your ways of dealing with criticism? Do you care? Tell me in the comments below!

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