The positives of negative criticism

Our creatives’ ideas on dealing with criticism

Nobody really likes to receive criticism. However, it is a necessary evil, especially as part of the creative development process. Unfortunately, us creatives are a passionate bunch, which can often lead to heated discussions when we receive feedback of a negative nature.

However, if you handle criticism in the right way, it can become a powerful tool in your creative armoury and can transform a good campaign into a great one.

‘It doesn’t work.’

The expression every creative dreads. Especially after you’ve spent hours, even days creating your masterpiece, to have it suddenly destroyed by these three words. And as your pieces of paper are torn from the wall, you can feel like a piece of you has died too.

Fear not. Don’t see this as failure, see it as an opportunity to grow and develop in your role. Take on board the reasons why it wasn’t liked, even write them down, then take them forward into the next round of work or project.

Don’t take it personally.

It’s a bit of a cliché – but there is some truth in it. Although at the time you feel like it’s very personal. After all, it’s your bit of creative. You did it. And they don’t like it. However, try to distance yourself from the criticism, while learning from it. It only hurts so much because you care so much about doing great work.

Select whose criticism you value.

What makes ‘great’ creative is extremely subjective. Everybody has an opinion. It’s up to you to decide whose opinion you value and how to constructively use their criticism to develop yourself and your work. Unfortunately, there will be situations when you have to take the criticism (no matter if it’s wrong), just shut the hell up and do exactly as you’re told. That’s life. Remember to pick your battles.

Don’t retaliate with all guns blazing.

Stay calm – getting upset is not going to help anybody. Especially yourself. Pause, take a deep breath and deliver a considered response. If you can articulate it with a clear rationale as to why you disagree with the criticism, it will make your case a lot stronger. Plus, responding to criticism is a good opportunity to improve your communication skills.

Be your own biggest critique.

Self criticism can be just as hard to manage as criticism from a peer. But it’s extremely important to do if you want to create the best work you can.

Check the brief.

You’ve got your overpriced coffee in one hand and your Pentel black marker in the other. You’re doodling a picture of a camel with five humps, then suddenly, eureka! The best idea since sliced bread. You spend time fleshing it out and making it work, and convince yourself it’s amazing. However, always check back to the brief, and if it doesn’t fit the proposition – ditch it. Even the best creative can go off on the wrong tangent chasing an idea.

Give it the overnight test.

Make yourself a hot, milky drink and drift off into the land of nod. The next day, pop in a fresh pair of eyes and review your work. It can often highlight any duds that have crept in.

Get a second opinion.

Ask a colleague you respect for their thoughts. Who knows, you might be being too hard on yourself. But you might not. Go in with an open mind and ask them to be totally honest.

Keep smiling.

We’re not the only ones who believe that criticism can be a positive thing, here are a few words of wisdom from Winston Churchill: ‘Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body.’

So, the next time you’re on the receiving end of negative criticism, try to react positively to it. Smile – even if you’re seething on the inside – and learn from it. It could be the difference between doing ‘good’ and ‘great’ work.