I have been watching a couple of blog comment squabbles this month with a little amusement and a lot of dismay. I always wonder whether the blog hosts realize how they look when they attack a messenger and deny what the readers can see.
Do You Struggle to Accept Criticism Graciously?
- When someone points out a flaw on your blog, do you aim the issue back at them?
- When an editor requests changes, do you bristle and respond defensively?
I will let you in on a little secret: The opposite of praise is not criticism. The opposite of praise is silence. Kids know this; that is why they act up to get attention.
Criticism as a Form of Praise
Criticism is often a form of praise for a writer. It says you matter enough to the critic to merit a response. With all the competition for attention, the easiest option is for someone to spot a flaw and shut you out forever. When a reader or editor takes the time to communicate a way you might improve, that is a gift.
However, when you fend off a well-intentioned critique with a pitch fork, you look petty and insecure. You alienate someone who might have been a friend. Witnesses may feel uncomfortable about entering the conversation. And face it, no amount of bluster will make you right when others can see a critique is valid.
I Struggle With This Myself
I would be lying if I claimed I always respond graciously to criticism. I am a work in progress. However, I have learned to hold my tongue for as long as it takes to rationally consider:
- Is the criticism valid?
- Is the criticism valid but immaterial to my mission?
- Is the critic someone whose opinion I value?
Then I try to find the words to say thank you for the feedback, because without feedback I fear my writing might grow stale and irrelevant.
Waking Up to My Readers
Last week, I woke up my quinoa blog with a slightly off-topic post. One of my long-time readers wrote to ask that I return to my mission of providing quinoa recipes and nutrition tips. I could have been hurt. I could have justified the post a hundred ways to Sunday.
Instead, I acknowledged that I had strayed about as far off topic as my subscribers would tolerate. Her message was a wake up call that yes, folks are listening, and yes, they would like me to return to the mission.
Don’t shoot the messengers who are trying to help you achieve the excellence to which you claim to aspire. Remember, the opposite of praise is silence.
Gun image courtesy of DieselDemon.