Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Spectrum of Criticism

The other day I mentioned that criticism is one of the best gifts we can be given, however there are some times we should keep the receipt. There are many flavors of criticism out there and only some of them are good for us.

Constructive Criticism: This is the best type of criticism we can hope to receive. Here the person looking at our work actively wants to make it better; they want to help us to do the best we can. We need to recognize that is not an attack on us, but the work of a coach, mentor or peer who sees what we can be and wants to help us get there.

Stylistic Friction: This type of criticism happens when the style of our work rather than the content does not sit well with someone. While this critique may be intended to be constructive it is not quite as valuable. We have to create works that represent who we are, that speak with our voice. However, if our voice becomes a stumbling block for more than a few readers we do need to pay attention and make changes. In short, we need to be ourselves, but also we need to be accessible.

Requisite Criticism: Here we have a situation where someone feels that they are required to find a flaw with what we are doing. Again this is not criticism that should be discounted out of hand, but it should also be taken with a grain of salt. The critique is done to exercise a duty rather than to create a better product. Valuable nuggets may be delivered in this way, but there is often a lot of dross to sort through.

Destructive Negativity: This is criticism is not about building something better, but instead about tearing down what someone else has made. This should be discarded and forgotten.

Personal Attacks: This is similar to destructive negativity except that it looks at the creator of the work rather than the work. Again, this is the sort of critique that should be disregarded. More than that, the people who do this are the people we should distance our selves from.


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