I’ve gone down a design rabbit hole. Which means, I’m more than smitten. I’m enthused and sometimes even fascinated.
But there’s one specific and random thing about design that I love, and I want to share it here. It has so much power to help in every single other facet of our lives — if we let it.
The magical art of the critique.
In reading an article on this very topic, I realized that giving a good critique is an art in and of itself. The reason?
- There is no way for me to do everything. In allowing others to perform tasks for us, we constantly step in to give guidance and commentary.
- I have friends and family — a lot of which ask for advice. (Don’t ask me why, but I’ve become an Oprah of sorts.) Sometimes, the answer and right path is so startingly clear that it cannot be revealed to the person in need so quickly. If they haven’t seen it yet themselves, then they need to be shown the light — gently.
- Creative teams can include passionate personalities, sometimes even divas. (And we all want to be creative, don’t we?) Giving feedback is critical to everyone’s work, so learning to give it well is crucial.
- Interpersonal relationships require give and take. I might not like it when my husband forgets the milk, but telling him so requires skill and tact — which I have not yet mastered!
Good feedback is gold.
When we receive and give good critiques, our projects progress at unprecedented speeds — and with a level of satisfaction and meaning that can surprise even the best collaborators. Feelings are not hurt, and (most importantly) ideas are given the space and attention they need to grow to their maximum potential.
Let’s illustrate this.
If you are proposing a new design or a new way of doing things, what response makes you feel more comfortable?
- “That’s not going to work. I don’t like it.”
- “Hmm, that’s interesting. What if we took this idea and added ______?”
I don’t know about you, but I find an ocean of difference between the those two feedback statements.
What’s holding us back?
Good feedback is hard to give, and it’s even harder to come by — mostly because it’s completely out of our control. We never know how another person is going to react to our ideas, suggestions, or statements.
There are so many ways to come up with new ideas and new ways to go about our lives. The problem is that we are often thwarted by our own minds and our peers.
Like my teachers used to say, “The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.” Likewise, the only stupid idea is the one you don’t propose.
Our own minds hold us back.
There is something about the risk of sounding dumb and being made fun of that shuts our creative brains off completely. It’s as if the connection between creativity and our mouths gets severed, and we are constrained to the ideas that fit regular, boring molds. What’s the good in that?
- Don’t cut off your creative solutions before even encountering any reactions! If you severe the connection between your creativity and your ability to communicate it, you are giving in to fear of rejection before you are even rejected! Possibility, how I dislike you.
- Write your ideas and suggestions down on a piece of paper — even email, if you need to. It’s easier to get over the fear of rejection or ridicule if you don’t have to face their feedback at the moment it’s given. Sometimes ideas take time to sink in — so send the idea over via another medium, and let the person ruminate for a while.
- Make it a conscious practice to keep tabs on all of your creative output. Whether it’s on paper, on your phone, or on your computer, capture all of your ideas for later use. It may not seem important now, but something may come of them later.
Our peers hold us back.
When we fear ridicule, our minds close off.
- People who surround us are rooting for you, and they should support you. Whether it’s a colleague or a family member, your success will bring them success. As they say, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Believe they are on your side, and your communication will flow.
- Communicate your need for gentle feedback. Some people take criticism better than others — even when it is constructive. If you let others know to be gentle with you, they will learn your style. Feedback won’t always be positive, but if it is gentle and constructive, then what could go wrong?
- Teams that spout off words like innovation and change are probably as stuck in the past as most big businesses. From what I see, the most innovative teams are the independent ones — the ones that can make their own decisions without fear of the heavy hand falling down to cut off their creativity.
There you have it. Those are my (gentle) suggestions.
Receiving better feedback is one easy thing. (You should send this to all those around you that give your nasty feedback.) But giving it is something else. How could you give better feedback?