The best way to quickly improve is to get feedback. Businesses know this. Everybody from Amazon to Walgreens uses customer insights. I even got a survey from the Astros after I went to a game. But lots of people feel that getting feedback on yourself and your projects about as fun as a trip to the dentist.

What if you made feedback your friend and got excited about it, instead of dreading it? That’s my philosophy. I always want to be improving for my clients, my audience (you guys), and myself.

When you are a creator, feedback is important because it gives you perspective. You have lived with your (story, painting computer program) for so long that you can’t see the forest for the trees. A good critique can help you see the trees and even the spaces between them. It can point out weak spots that need to be improved. Feedback is the best way to find out what is working and what isn’t in your project.

Without feedback you can stagnate or get worse. Look at Empire Strikes Back versus The Phantom Menace. George Lucas collaborated with Lawrence Kasdan, who ended up writing the screenplay for Empire Strikes Back. It is many fans’ favorite Star Wars movie. Years later he showed the script of The Phantom Menace to no one. He wasn’t interested in getting story notes. As a result, the movie is terrible. I wonder what kind of film he would have made if he had had his old feedback crew of Lawrence Kasdan, Francis Ford Coppola, and Stephen Spielberg read the script? So next time you’re balking at having somebody read your stuff, ask yourself do I want to write the next Empire Strikes Back or the next Phantom Menace?

There are two kinds of feedback:

  • Constructive criticism that helps you improve and succeed.
  • Destructive criticism designed to disempower, destabilize, and destroy you.

How to take Constructive Feedback

Go in with a positive attitude. Be excited to hear what they have to say. Have an open mind.

Put your emotions aside and be present. I hate the advice not to take things personally because when it’s happening to you it is personal. Instead, make a conscious decision not to react emotionally while you’re getting the feedback. Save that reaction for when you are alone or decompressing with a good friend. If you’re too emotional in the moment, you may not hear some good advice.

Don’t be defensive. It’s okay to explain what you mean or give more information. But don’t dig in your heels and argue your point of view. Listening to the critique, does not mean that you are agreeing to it.

Be gracious. Practice having grace under fire. Even if you are getting way more negative suggestions then you were expecting, have a smile on your face and an open mind. Someone once told me I take feedback like a champ and I consider that a high compliment. Be a champ.

Ask a lot of questions. Use questions to clarify your critiquer’s points and get them to expand on their thinking.

Always end the meeting or phone call with a thank you. When appropriate, follow up and let them know what you implemented and how it’s going.

Which feedback do you try?

  • If you see that it will immediately bring improvement.
  • If it will clarify something that was confusing.
  • If you hear it more than once from different sources.

Which feedback do you ignore?

  • If it will change the intent and feel of a story.
  • If it doesn’t resonate with you.
  • If it doesn’t make sense.

I hope these tips make your next performance review or story meeting a more pleasant experience.

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