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10 Tips for Responding Non-Defensively to Criticism

written by: Michael Guerrero • edited by: Linda Richter • updated: 5/25/2011

Criticism is built up in our minds as a harsh thing, almost like punishment. At times, we can lash out against critics as we try and defend our work, which is wrong. There are several ways to avoid this. This article reviews several ways to start responding non-defensively to criticism.

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    Understand Criticism

    Listen to your critics Criticism is a feared word: We all have to subject ourselves and our work to others so they can tell you why or what you're doing incorrectly. While it might seem like a scary thing to put yourself through, it's actually one of the best things you can do for yourself.

    Your work could be a masterpiece, and someone will still find something wrong with it. So it's understandable that you won't agree with every critic all of the time. They are the ones who have the experience and knowledge, and they chose to impart it to you so that you do not end up making the same mistakes as they have. Criticism is part of the learning process, and it's invaluable when you're trying to improve. It shouldn't be immediately regarded as an attack against your work.

    Once you eliminate the fear of criticism being an offensive thing there is no reason to act defensively in the face of criticism. You can open yourself up to criticism allow yourself to learn from this criticism.

    Not everyone will be able to help you, because there are bad critiques and there are bad critics. It's important that you stay calm and don't try and defend yourself against the critiques that don't matter. It's a waste of time that could be better spent elsewhere.

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    Review Your Own Work

    Just after you've finished with your work, review it and ask yourself if that's what you really will put forth to be judged. Also, review your work as someone who has to review your work. Find something that you don't think is appropriate or correct and change it, cite sources correctly, use the correct resource, etc. The best thing you can do for yourself is to make sure that those critiquing your hard work have little to criticize.

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    Choose Your Critics

    Everyone is a critic When you present your work amongst your peers or to the general public, it is true that everyone is a critic. Some will have helpful critiques while others are just out to defame your work in any way they can--and for various reasons. What you're looking for in a critic is someone who has actually read your work, has verifiable experience in the work that they are critiquing, has a good amount of experience; someone who will put time into reviewing your work whose overall critique is valuable.

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    Take Something From Every Critique

    Criticism gets a lot of bad rap for being stressful and offensive because, as I mentioned before, no one likes seeing his or her work being deconstructed and evaluated. But in the end good criticism is about people trying to help each other improve. Even some of the most unfair critiques may have some merit to them. Take everything in and analyze it. See if there are ways you could apply criticisms, even the unfair ones, in a positive manner to your work.

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    Ask For Perspective

    If you're having trouble understanding a critique that you feel is unfair, it's a great thing to inquire why the critic came to his conclusion. The critic must defend his point rather than your having to defend your own work. This creates a discussion that can be enlightening; it can either help you improve from receiving constructive criticism or it can reveal a critic who is just out to get your goat.

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    Thank the Critic

    Art exhibit showcasing criticism Critcism is hard for everyone. No one wants to have to admit that his work isn't good enough or that he didn't do a job as well as they had hoped. Sometimes we get flustered and react poorly in situations that don't call for it. The best thing you can do for yourself is to suck it up and politely thank someone for his critique regardless of how much merit it holds. This is a very classy way to respond neutrally.

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    Apply the Critique to Future Works

    Without criticism we wouldn't have learned anything in school Rather than responding to someone's criticism that you don't find constructive, you can take their criticism and apply it to works in the future. Your work will reflect the criticism, which is incredibly positive--because it allows the critic to see that you are willing to listen and learn from him.

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    Offer No Excuse

    Offering excuses is one of the most common bad habits people fall into while being critiqued. If you find yourself agreeing with someone's critique, take it and promise them that you will learn about your flaws from the experience and apply it in the future.

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    Offer No Reaction

    Sometimes the best way of politely dealing with criticism you don't find constructive is to just not respond at all. It may seem a bit rude at first, but if you feel that you would only react negatively, responding non-defensively to critism just means not giving them a response or reaction.

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    Do Not Allow Criticism

    This is not the best way of approaching criticism, in my opinion: Opening yourself up to criticism is a learning experience that is important in improving yourself and your work through your life. Shutting people out completely will eliminate criticism altogether, thus removing the need to defend your work. It's not as bad as anyone says or as bad as you think it might be. Just remember that before you decide to shut yourself away.

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    Credits

    All images in this article are used for promotional purposes only and are listed in the order they appear.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/anonymous9000/3014732646/sizes/m/in/photostream/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/allanhenderson/5226382781/sizes/m/in/photostream/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/16038409@N02/2398942329/sizes/m/in/photostream/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/landschaft/478768657/sizes/m/in/photostream/