PDA

View Full Version : How to Gracefully Manage Criticism



Medievalist
09-05-2012, 10:22 PM
This is a useful piece from 99U:


But, oftentimes, our efforts to address our critics become an obsession. Even worse, our efforts can backfire by fanning the flames. A single harsh comment on a bulletin board can turn into an aggressive and insulting exchange that is not constructive but still liable to keep you up at night. For this reason, many prominent bloggers and companies have removed comment boards altogether.

Don't cut off your critics. Feedback helps us correct our course and spurs a dialog that serves to build community. Instead, you should decide how and when to respond.

Consider the following tips on how to manage your critics:

Read the rest here (http://99u.com/tips/6570/How-to-%28Gracefully%29-Manage-Your-Critics).

Kricket
09-05-2012, 10:54 PM
Seems like some very useful advice. Something everyone who produces a product and plans on interacting with the consumers of that product should look at.

Professionalism should be taught in schools.

Anaquana
09-05-2012, 11:58 PM
"Critisicism"?

Who are you and what have you done with our Medi? The real Medi would never misspell a word like that!

As for the article - I always thought those suggestions were no-brainers, but the "Authors Behaving Badly" thread cured me of that bit of naivete real fast.

Buffysquirrel
09-06-2012, 01:15 AM
I came into this thread only to point out that misspelling. I now have no purpose here.

Medievalist
09-06-2012, 01:25 AM
"Critisicism"?

Who are you and what have you done with our Medi? The real Medi would never misspell a word like that!

Err . . . you haven't been noticing my edit notes, have you.

You're going to find me screwing up all the time.

Mostly, I catch it. But sometimes I fail, and nice readers let me know.

But I go back to correct a screw up in more than half my posts.


As for the article - I always thought those suggestions were no-brainers, but the "Authors Behaving Badly" thread cured me of that bit of naivete real fast.

That was exactly the thread that convinced me to post the link.

It's rather basic advice, both in terms of professionalism, and basic courtesy, but I think it's worth reminding people that you can either not engage or engage in an appropriate and even beneficial way.

dangerousbill
09-06-2012, 01:42 AM
This is a useful piece from 99U:
Read the rest here (http://99u.com/tips/6570/How-to-%28Gracefully%29-Manage-Your-Critics).

I always profusely thank critiquers and store their stuff in a separate file kept with my wip. I can go over it later without emotion. I rarely make any changes in an immediate reaction to a crit, negative or positive, unless my screwup is so egregious I can't bear to leave it unchanged.

Since I won't be throwing acid in their faces, it's also good for my friends' complexions, too.

The Otter
09-08-2012, 08:43 AM
I always profusely thank critiquers and store their stuff in a separate file kept with my wip. I can go over it later without emotion. I rarely make any changes in an immediate reaction to a crit, negative or positive, unless my screwup is so egregious I can't bear to leave it unchanged.

Since I won't be throwing acid in their faces, it's also good for my friends' complexions, too.

Setting crits aside and coming back to them later is good advice. (Unless, like you said, it's an obvious mistake that's easy to fix.)

Also, I never debate a particular crit because that seems like asking for trouble. Occasionally I'll ask for clarification, but if it's something I flat-out disagree with (which happens pretty rarely, actually), I'll just offer thanks, come back to it later, and then discard it if I still disagree with it.

Captcha
09-08-2012, 04:13 PM
I think one of the things that makes it hard for many to hear criticism of writing is that it's a solo activity. If I work on something as a team and it receives criticism, I can always 'blame' others in the group; with writing, the fault is mine (assuming I agree that there IS a fault).

I also find that my bad memory and relatively fast writing speed help me accept criticism of published pieces. By the time critics are reading my work, I've forgotten most of the details, and have immersed myself in several other stories; it helps make criticism feel like an impersonal learning opportunity rather than a personal attack.

When people criticize things I've JUST written, I find it much harder to be complacent. I get more upset about someone finding fault with one of my took-five-minutes-to-write posts at AW than I do about someone criticizing a novel that took a couple months of my time!

ElsaM
09-08-2012, 04:41 PM
In my professional life, I feel that learning to accept criticism is one of the biggest challenges I have.

The only one of the tips in the article that I'd approach warily is "invite them for a one on one". Just because, as an bystander, I've seen this go so badly so many times. Not because the person being criticised has reacted badly, but because the criticiser has turned out to have bigger issues than just the incident being criticised, and a one on one session has just fanned the flames.

PorterStarrByrd
09-08-2012, 05:02 PM
Good advice

I have learned to deal with critism (and worse) through 20+ years of umpiring. I became a better umpire through using these skills (top level was MLB spring training 'B' games and Pac-10 umpiring)

As then, I have learned to filter. If the same thing comes up often then I make a change. If it's one person I step back and consider the point(s). I may or may not make any changes. As both an umpire and a writer, and particularly through beta reading, I understand that there are certain things we do repeatedly but don't see until they are pointed out to us. We can't see until the scales are lifted from our eyes and we can't usually pick them off ourselves.

JMC2009
09-10-2012, 07:03 AM
The thing about receiving criticism via a bulletin board or blog comment is that, for me, it's a lot easier to brush off. I've had some harsh criticism thrown at me online that if it were said to my face would probably have resulted in an out and out throw down.

The internet is a great tool for free speech, free exchange of ideas and opinions. However, there seems to be a lot of people who also use it as a tool to hide behind the anonymity that it provides to be unnecessarily ruthless and harsh and sometimes down right malevolent.

In the American Bill of Rights, the sixth amendment gives someone accused of a crime the right to be face to face with their accuser. Admittedly, no one is accusing someone of a crime (most of the time), but I wonder how much of what is said would be said if they had to do it in person?

fadeaccompli
09-10-2012, 07:23 PM
The thing about receiving criticism via a bulletin board or blog comment is that, for me, it's a lot easier to brush off. I've had some harsh criticism thrown at me online that if it were said to my face would probably have resulted in an out and out throw down.

Huh. Am I misinterpreting the phrase, or by "out and out throw down" do you mean violence? Or just a lot of shouting?


In the American Bill of Rights, the sixth amendment gives someone accused of a crime the right to be face to face with their accuser. Admittedly, no one is accusing someone of a crime (most of the time), but I wonder how much of what is said would be said if they had to do it in person?

Because, see, if you do mean violence--or even shouting--then I am all in favor of internet anonymity. Criticism of writing doesn't deserve violence. Even harsh criticism. Or unfair criticism. Or outright lying criticism. And I think there are a lot of people with useful things to say who'd be unfairly silenced if someone was going to go scream in their faces physically, even without actual violence, every time they said something that person didn't like about that person's writing.

So, yeah, this seems like a pretty good argument right here for people being able to post criticism anonymously online, to keep scary overreacting criticized people from being able to attack them for it.

JMC2009
09-11-2012, 12:50 AM
Huh. Am I misinterpreting the phrase, or by "out and out throw down" do you mean violence? Or just a lot of shouting?



You're taking it too literally, it was intended as hyperbole and I apologize that that was missed.

I am not a violent person, but neither would I sit there in person and and let people lie about me or be unduly harsh without calling them out on it - they'd better be prepared to go point-counterpoint. Fair criticism and points well made are always accepted. Personal attacks are not. People with fair points to make don't need to hit below the belt.

Whenever I post something my first check before I hit submit is "Am I ok with putting my name to this?". If I'm not, then I know I've said something out of line.

Julie

Richard White
09-11-2012, 03:05 AM
I believe the old phrase is, "A man has a right to say what he thinks . . .


. . . as long as he thinks."

jjdebenedictis
09-11-2012, 05:58 AM
In the American Bill of Rights, the sixth amendment gives someone accused of a crime the right to be face to face with their accuser. Admittedly, no one is accusing someone of a crime (most of the time), but I wonder how much of what is said would be said if they had to do it in person?Yes, it's entirely possible a person might be too intimidated in your presence to express what they really think.

But that's not necessarily a good thing, is it? Shy people with smart things to say get silenced by face-to-face conversations too.

Look, we're all writers here. We should at least occasionally remind ourselves of all the good reasons there are for a person to write anonymously; it's not like the nom de plume is a new concept.

Anonymity allows a writer to pen erotica without their religious relatives disowning them. They can criticize the government with less chance of being arrested. They can call for social change without fear of being kidnapped and lynched.

There are people out there who will literally kill to silence others. Anonymity is a tool that allows voices to be heard despite the world's murderers and tyrants and even the world's prudes.

The fact that a tool can be misused is no reason to ban it. Anonymity is extremely useful--especially to writers.

I am always very leery when people start saying anonymity is a bad thing just because they've had some exposure to nasty people. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater; at least consider that anonymity can be an extremely positive thing.

JMC2009
09-11-2012, 06:34 AM
Yes, anonymity can play a useful role. I myself have a pen name that I plan to use should the occasion ever arise. But reasons for using a pen name are completely different from reasons why someone would want their identity hidden when providing criticism or a fair review.

I was simply musing on how many of the bullshitters who go on ego trips ripping someone to shreds would go away if they had to fess up to who they were. Nothing more.

Timmy V.
09-11-2012, 08:11 AM
I've definitely seen how anonymity on the Slate Magazine comment boards etc. really create monsters. My only fear of using my identity, and others may have the same fear, is our employers. I'm in the financial field on the government side. The powers to be have hobbies too. Many of the people above me are transient officials hired through political patronage. While my views might be politically correct, they might still be a different kind of political correct. My views would not be construed as "business friendly" by the political powers above.

I'm thinking many writers who haven't been able to make a living yet have employers they need to be very concerned about. In a "keep a low profile, be quiet, remain at your desk" environment common to many white collar offices, blogging at all, regardless of the content, regardless of the media outlet, is often construed as rabble rousing on the part of the employee. Something as innocuous as a negative review of a restaurant could be dangerous if the restaurant owner is politically connected to the governor.

So the way I see it, the anonymous blogger risks harming other people due to the temptations that come from anonymity.

The named blogger risks being harmed by other people due to the people that have power over him/her.

Medievalist
09-11-2012, 08:26 AM
Don't ever, ever, rely on anonymity on the 'net.

For most people, it's not possible. It really isn't.

Post with the assumption that your words are yours, and will be there forever.

AbielleRose
09-11-2012, 08:53 AM
I bet all of those authors who have been getting called out in various threads/articles/etc lately thought they the veil of anonymity would never be raised on them... like Medi said, once it's out there, it's out there.

Yes, sometimes it's very hard to ignore someone's words when you disagree, but it's worth the effort. I respect people who can gracefully accept criticism, behave respectfully and use their manners even when it would be easy not to.

poetinahat
09-11-2012, 09:23 AM
"Critisicism"?

Who are you and what have you done with our Medi? The real Medi would never misspell a word like that!

Unless, y'know, she was setting up a demo on how to gracefully manage criticism. Thank you for completing the mission!

fadeaccompli
09-11-2012, 07:26 PM
You're taking it too literally, it was intended as hyperbole and I apologize that that was missed.

Oh, okay. Sorry for the misinterpretation, then! I've seen just enough people talk explicitly about their desire to do violence on someone who said "I didn't like this book" about something they wrote that...well, I jumped to the wrong conclusion.


I am not a violent person, but neither would I sit there in person and and let people lie about me or be unduly harsh without calling them out on it - they'd better be prepared to go point-counterpoint. Fair criticism and points well made are always accepted. Personal attacks are not. People with fair points to make don't need to hit below the belt.

I suppose part of the problem is that what is "unduly" harsh can be a hard line to draw.

There is a particular beloved book by a beloved author in the genre where I write--for the sake of not derailing things, I'm not going to mention the name of any of the three--which is often praised as an excellent example of doing a particular type of thing well. I think it does that particular thing very, very poorly, to the point of being offensive, destructive, and full of nasty implications that support some horrible beliefs and attitudes in the culture I inhabit.

And if I say this, some people who love it are going think that I'm being "unduly harsh", since they feel very differently. And some of those people are going to want to debate all those points in great detail. And some of those people are going to start doing the threats of violence; I've seen this happen.

So...yeah, I'm in favor of online anonymity. There are all sorts of reasons why I should be able to post harsh criticism of something without attaching my real name to it, which range from the extreme of "I would be in fear for my life" to the simple, minor, but acceptable reason of "I've got so much homework to do today, I really don't have time to go through this tired old debate with these defensive fans again."

How hard it is to remain anonymous online? Yeah, that's another issue. But I don't think "This is impossible to do with perfect security" means that something shouldn't be done at all. There's no perfect security in anything in life.

Buffysquirrel
09-12-2012, 07:07 PM
Some people seem to have nothing between "don't care" and DEATH THREAT. I have no idea how they stay out of prison, really.

B.G. Dobbins
09-24-2012, 04:22 AM
I saw something I really admired on an online post before. A commentor told someone that his worked sucked (along with a few more inappropriate words), and he just replied with, "how can I improve?"

I was clearly impressed. If it were me, I probably wouldn't have spared the commentor the time of day to even reply to the post in a nice manner. I would rather find someone who would tell me that my work could use a lot of improvement in many areas, because that would be the person that could better help you improve.

Timmy V.
09-24-2012, 07:27 AM
I think it's important to have some sense of where your own tolerance level is relative to what degree of criticism you can hear. I've learned I can hear the most vicious, stupid critique in an email or in person. But if an anonymous person on line uses a public forum to state your work sucks in a two line critique - my body feels as if its just received a terrorist attack. It's the public humiliation, getting beat up in the playground, aspect for me. I can see no value, only damage, from receiving such a "critique." And I feel strongly the anonymous person online who uses a public forum to tell someone they suck in such a brief, blunt way has a self image that enjoys the momentary power of treating someone badly.

Hence its not a good idea for me to submit my work to a public, anonymous forum.

frimble3
09-24-2012, 08:16 AM
I have no dog in this fight: I neither write for publication, nor write reviews. However, out of curiosity: is it possible that the problem is not anonymity, but volume?

Thanks to the wonder that is the Internet, in the same way that anyone can self-publish, anyone can start up a review blog.

Once, book reviews were the province of people with some contact in a a publication, whether a fan-publication, a newspaper's review section, or an actual review magazine. Therefore, someone had to approve you, even if it was your boyfriend. The numbers were limited, there are only so many pages.

Now all you need is web-hosting, and your blog is in business. Trouble is, so is everyone else's. The blogger wants attention, why else would they do it?

What better way to get attention than to be quotable? Don't just be funny - be snarky, don't just suggest that the book 'needs work' - mock whatever you can. Say something, anything, that will get them Twittering about you. If you can't be clever, be nasty.
It's less critiquing, more jumping up and down, waving your arms, shouting "Look at me! LOOK AT MEEEE!"

Hordes of nasty reviews are created by the same mechanism that leads to self-publishers spamming. Too many people fighting for our attention.

August Talok
09-24-2012, 09:08 PM
I once had the honor of meeting Glen A. Larson (google him) at a film festival. One of my films played at the festival and our very first review on IMDB was horrible. It tore me and the rest of the crew into pieces. We ranted for days about it. When I told Glen about being upset, his response was short but perfect. "Welcome to planet Earth, kid."

jjdebenedictis
09-25-2012, 04:53 AM
What better way to get attention than to be quotable? Don't just be funny - be snarky, don't just suggest that the book 'needs work' - mock whatever you can. Say something, anything, that will get them Twittering about you. If you can't be clever, be nasty.
It's less critiquing, more jumping up and down, waving your arms, shouting "Look at me! LOOK AT MEEEE!"

Hordes of nasty reviews are created by the same mechanism that leads to self-publishers spamming. Too many people fighting for our attention.To me, though, that's just the blogger balancing "informative" with "entertaining". What you call "fighting for attention", I'd call "giving the audience what they want."

A lot of people love reading snarky reviews; they find them funny. The blogger is appealing to a particular audience.

In a way, a book reviewer is very much like an author. They write what they want, but they also have to appeal to an audience if they want their work to be seen widely.

frimble3
09-25-2012, 06:21 AM
To me, though, that's just the blogger balancing "informative" with "entertaining". What you call "fighting for attention", I'd call "giving the audience what they want."

A lot of people love reading snarky reviews; they find them funny. The blogger is appealing to a particular audience.

In a way, a book reviewer is very much like an author. They write what they want, but they also have to appeal to an audience if they want their work to be seen widely.
Bolded is my point. They want their work seen widely. Is there really that much of a clamor for so many book reviews, many of them just reviewing the same popular fiction titles?

jjdebenedictis
09-25-2012, 07:27 AM
Bolded is my point. They want their work seen widely. Is there really that much of a clamor for so many book reviews, many of them just reviewing the same popular fiction titles?*shrug* Is there really that much of a clamour for all of our books and stories and articles?

Not at all. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be writing them.

For book bloggers as for books: the good ones will find an audience, and the bad ones will disappear. And if snark is what the audience wants, then snarky book reviewers will thrive.