When you do something – anything – you’re going to get criticized.
I used to lose a lot of sleep about it, but I’ve figured out there’s an easy way to filter criticism: treat it like incoming email. Use a series of filters and scores to determine whether it meets your threshold, and if not, throw it away.
All criticism starts at 0 points.
Filtering the Critic
Is the critic anonymous? -5 points
Does the critic know me in real life? +5 points
Has the critic given me helpful criticism before? +5 points
Has the critic given me unhelpful criticism before? -5 points
Is the critic doing the same work I’m doing? +2 points
Do I respect the critic’s work? +2 points
(Note: this doesn’t require that they do the same work I do. For example, if I get a criticism from an artist that I respect, I’ll take it seriously even though I can’t draw a stick figure with a ruler.)
Does the critic have his own agenda? -5 points
Filtering the Criticism
Does it attack you personally rather than your work? -5 points
Is it filled with emotion? -2 points
Does it have rampant spelling and grammar errors? -1 point
Does it look like it took more than a minute or two to write? + 2 points
Does it include specific examples of how to do better? +2 points
Does it link to supporting evidence? +2 points
Was there more than a day between the action and the criticism, suggesting they slept on it? +2 points
Does the criticism echo concerns you initially had about your own work? +1 point
Putting the Score Together
15 points or more: thank them, and tell them that you’re going to do their criticism justice by thinking seriously about it and then responding more later. Think on it overnight, and then start a private discussion with the critic. They’ve done you a real service.
8 points or more: thank them, and spend a minute thinking through the criticism. Are there any actions you can take right away to fix the problem? If so, do it, and move on.
0 points or more: thank them, and file it away mentally. You’ve heard it, and there may be something in here you need to act on, but no need to take drastic action. It’s in your mental filing cabinet now and it will influence your behavior going forward.
Negative points: leave it alone. They’re trolling you, trying to get a reaction, and what they said was probably designed to raise your blood pressure. Look at the techniques they used, and learn to recognize them faster. You’ll hone your internal spam criticism filter to the point where these types of critiques won’t bother you at all. You’ll know what the critic is trying to do, and you’ll be above them.
Like you, I’ll look at the criticism, even if the source is less than helpful the majority of the time. Sometimes there is a speck of gold in all that dross. Sometimes I have a wrong impression of a person. And sometimes I’m being so boneheaded that someone who would normally care less feels compelled to call me out on it.
This is a good skill to hone for presentations too. You really need to be able to recognize when to move on or when to further discuss someone’s disagreement when presenting.
The nasty thing about trolling is that it works because the other person notices that it was *meant* as trolling.
That’s why it often makes you mad.
Almost nobody consciously recognizes that this process occurs, though. That’s why people often fail to ignore trolling.
If a troll said to you in ernest “I want to make you angry” you’d just laugh. If he says “you should change jobs and fry hamburgers” you get angry. That’s inconsistent.
Brent, that is a really interesting way of measuring criticism! Like it! However, how often do you see people that are actually ready to accept any of it no matter if it can win them only positives?
I usually filter anything through the popular logical fallacies to see if there’s even an argument being expressed in the first place.
If there isn’t a discernible argument, there is nothing to respond to.
[…] Treat Criticism Like Spam Email (ozar.me) […]
Man I wish I had read this last week, it would have saved me a few days. I really like the rating scale. I find the hashes criticism is when I know there is an element of truth to it (I could have done something better and I knew it). In the end you just have to let it go.
This smart guy I know once said “don’t worry about the people who think you suck, they aren’t going to show up to watch you present anyway.”
HA! I do like that quote, although I’m not sure the guy’s smart. 😉