Once upon a time in a virtual land not far from here, there lived a blog post that received more criticism than the Filipino divers who received a score of 0.
That blog post was written by yours truly.
While I was writing that post, not a single doubt crossed my naïve, excited mind that my seemingly reasonable arguments were safe from being dissected and misconstrued as a series of angry, condescending ramblings.
Alas, I was wrong.
Instead of furiously waging war in the comments section to defend the honor of my precious blog post, I decided to reflect on the remarks with silence and gratitude. If you ever find yourself in a situation in which you receive less-than-ideal feedback, I encourage you to do the same.
1.) All ideas are open to interpretation. Nearly all of your ideas make sense to you because they exist in your mind, but each individual’s mind is different. The way you interpret certain information may differ from the way someone else interprets it, because the process of interpretation, known as "top-down processing," relies on one's past experiences. The commenters on my post seemed to think that I was saying the opposite of what I was really trying to convey, which taught me that I need to be careful with phrasing. I realized that if I structured some of my sentences a little differently, at least a few of those critics would have been supporters of my ideas instead. So, unless you communicate information that is completely objective, chances are high that your ideas may sound differently to someone else than they do to you. It may be helpful for your own peace of mind to acknowledge that and to explore methods of clarifying your points to others.
2.) A negative response is still a response. Sure, the response to my post was largely negative, but writing it required at least a few minutes and some mental effort. I was actually flattered to find that some readers spent a bit of time processing my words and I appreciated their willingness to share their thoughts. Regardless of what type of information you are passing along to others, knowing that they are paying attention is a great reward in and of itself.
3.) Feedback is often more constructive than destructive. As difficult as it may be to accept someone’s critique of your work or ideas, don’t be quick to assume that that person intended to insult you. I have found that writers who post content online often try to help strengthen the writing of others by offering advice or pointing out errors- they’re just not always great at sounding as kind and supportive as they may intend to. Of course, ruthless bullies do exist, but first grade taught me that they are easy to recognize and should be ignored. Negative feedback can serve as a good indicator of which aspect of your work or communication needs to be improved, whether it is in the form of a mere comment online or an evaluation from your boss. Accepting the feedback and focusing on extracting the remarks that sound helpful, rather than disregarding all of it completely, will allow you to strengthen your weaknesses.
4.) It’s impossible to please everyone. Even if you end up sharing an idea that many people support, someone will find something wrong with it. It’s inevitable. There are many opinionated people in this large world who have specific preferences, and that’s okay- you are one of them, too. I think that it’s safe to say that everyone in the U.S. supports freedom of speech, but sometimes we need to put extra effort into remembering that the freedom of speech applies not just to compliments, but to complaints, as well.
Although I used writing as an example in the aforementioned list of reasons, I have found that approaching criticism in all aspects of my life with openness and acceptance has not only helped me become a stronger person, but it has also allowed me to understand the thought processes of other people.
Regardless of whether you choose to accept critical comments from others as peacefully as I chose to do, however, you should never neglect the thoughts of your main critic: yourself.