Critique the Criticizer

"See feedback as giving you information about the person giving it—not as giving you information about yourself."

I really liked this quote from an article on 99u about how to take critique more graciously. A lot of times, it is hard to separate your identity as the creator from the "thing" you have created. However, in order to grow as a creator, you must be open to critique. Nothing can ever exist in a silo and everything must be placed in a context where others can interact with it. Criticism is not necessarily an indictment on you or your creative process, but rather helps you understand how "they" (i.e. anyone not involved in the process of creation) respond to your work. And as with anything that is told to you, it is essential to not blindly respond to these critiques, but to process them and to understand the who, what, why, when, and where behind them. Perhaps most importantly, you as the creator must understand and appreciate that you have the power (NOT the compulsion) to accept or deny the validity of any criticism, and to apply it to whichever extent you choose.

This is especially important in fields like product design where it is all too easy to fall in love with your work and lose objectivity in the process. Every critique sounds like a personal attack on your design choices. You begin to develop selective acceptance of what the metrics are telling you and your users are saying. Perhaps most egregious is the inability to think past the product as a standalone artifact and to contextualize what you have created as part of a larger system. As challenging as this can be, every product owner and/or manager needs to parse and acknowledge critiques in a constructive and healthy manner. This means equally disregarding the “destructive” criticism (“ur product sux!!1!!1!”) and the fluffy exaltation (“this product changed my life forever”). Instead, concentrate on actionable suggestions while paying close attention to the context of those suggestions.

Feedback and critique are valuable tools if taken with the right attitude and properly contextualized. Separate yourself from the product and convince yourself it’s never personal. Instead, see it as a way to collect implicit feedback on what you’ve created, and build something even better!