19 comments

  1. Marilyn,
    I love this post as well. I think so many of our reactions to criticism are rooted in fear, because we have put ourselves out there so to speak. When you pour so much of yourself into a piece and then someone criticizes it, it can feel personal. But if we take a step back and think a bit on it, pulling our emotions out of it, usually we find some validity to the words spoken. Then we can get better…and be thankful for insights that we ourselves are blinded to because of our personal connection to our own words.

  2. Marilyn – I see I neglected to mention how valuable the content in your article is! It spured some thoughts on constructive criticism and being a critic – so I followed that rabbit trail.
    I know your heart is to help Writers and those in recovery – and if/when you offer constructive criticism – it is done with so much grace I have always interpreted it as encouragement!
    Thank you for both your informative posts and encouragement!

    • Hi, Terry. All of your comments, and trips down the rabbit hole were one of the things that I love about people adding value to a post.

      You made me think of some other ways to implement sandwich at work.

      Great discussion on the comment train! Love it.

  3. My view on criticism relates largely to old baggage, old hurts, and old wounds. People have been told they are not good enough from an early age, put down rather than encouraged. Most people succeed in spite of criticism. I agree critique is as much about finding positives, or points of agreement as it is finding fault. In the world today there are too many people that will ostracise you because you say one thing they disagree with. They forget the dozen things you agreed with them about.

    • Hi, Peter. We all have baggage, old hurts, and wounds. Yet, writers are supposed to be thick-skinned and not react. Where is that writer?

      You are so correct about the forgetfulness of people. I had a guy in my group say, “You only criticize.” I had to remind him that in the 9 months he’s been here, all other comments were positive. He thought for a minute and then said, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

      Thanks for your comment and additional perspective.

  4. I think it’s only natural that when we’re criticized, we feel it personally. I find that I take criticism much better from someone I respect, especially if I feel like they know about the subject they’re offering criticism on. Plus, never discount those years under your belt. You’ve earned them. Loved the article Marilyn.

  5. Great post. I particularly liked Terry’s sandwich method and will try to use that.

    This is where being part of a critique circle is so valuable. Especially if it’s one in which you’ve been a member for some time. We each give and get praise and criticism. Or as the old saw goes: “some days you eat the bear; some days the bear eats you.”

    • I think you are so right Mary Jo – I think criticism is much better received when we are in a community of others we know have good motives and our best interest at heart and it is balanced with praise. Let me know how the sandwich method works for you! My friend sharing that with me really was an eye opener for me. 🙂 Of course, I should have added I mostly used it with my kids – there were times where I had what could delicately be described as a failure to communicate – okay – I lost my temper 🙂

    • Hi, Mary Jo. Or some days we’re the windshield and next, the bug. I’ve felt squashed by criticism before and it’s never comfortable. But it does help if I know the person and realistically figure out their intent.

      Thanks for commenting.

  6. Thank you for this Marilyn. To me there is a difference between constructive criticism and a critic! There seem to be quite an abundance of critics that I have seen absolutely tear into a new bloggers post and many I have seen do it to seasoned bloggers. I feel this is inexcusable. Then there are people who know how to gently suggest or direct and we can get valuable feedback from them. I learned from a friend years ago about the sandwich method – which I used for many years successfully with my kids – as well as other areas of my life! Always start with what the person has done right, then tactfully point out the area that could/needs improvement and then end with something else the person has done right/or that you appreciate about them or their work.
    I love the method and it seems to work well 🙂

    • Terry, I have never heard of the sandwich method, but I like how you described to use it, build and encourage as opposed to ripping and shredding someone apart. You can critique me any-day. 🙂

      • Hi John – I don’t think I would have much to critique on your posts – they are wonderful as they are!
        But yes, no one likes to be ripped to shreds nor should they be, As Marilyn and Colin pointed out there is a skill to offering constructive criticism. I say if you don’t have that skill – don’t do it! And don’t do it – if you haven’t been specifically asked’ 🙂

  7. Marilyn, I learned a valuable lesson many years ago. When I received criticism, I thought it was a direct attack on me. What I learned from that experience was my experienced teacher saw potential in me. He made me realize it was a particular skill he wanted me to excel at. Sometimes pointing out a weakness can be upsetting, but if you want to be good at something you have to pay attention. I like my constructive criticism one on one. Thank you again for your wisdom. John.

  8. A great post here, and hugely important for writers especially. We spend a lot of time on our own as writers, buried in our little worlds, talking to people we created. It’s a very personal thing.

    However, want also interests me is the skill required to deliver constructive criticism. I was a Drama teacher for many years and I spend quite some time teaching my pupils the art of critique. The focus was about how to build the other person, never just to bluntly criticise in a negative way. If anyone was to be the “Simon Cowell” it would be me – but only because that was my job, and I had the experience to do it objectively, switching Devil’s advocate on and off at my pleasing – or rather, as was necessary for the pupil/group.

    I absolutely agree with your point about the purpose of critique, and that is what angers me most about “critics” who often seem dead set of just being a self-interested smart arse who likes their own writing too much. I used to have a lot of banned phrases:

    “I’m sorry, but…” – this was banned, because if you need to apologise that means you intend to offend.
    “In my opinion…” – we weren’t asking for your opinion, we are asking for your critique…they are not the same.
    “I don’t think…” – well, you should…
    “No offence, but…” – if you genuinely mean no offence, you don’t need such a preface.
    “To be honest…” – does that mean you were lying earlier?

    And so on. I had these rules because I wanted my pupils to learn to be as confident about their ability to critique as they were to write, perform, or evaluate. One of the main tools I used then, and still insist upon now, is rather than commenting ON someone’s work, making the “critical friend” pose their thought as a question. I believe this makes the criticism more palatable, and more intellectual than emotional. A well worded question should pose thought and consideration for the writer. It also could be that the reader’s point is entirely relevant, or it might expose the fact that they weren’t paying enough attention when reading. More importantly, it might alert the reader to – for example – a subplot that they thought was strikingly obvious simply isn’t. If several readers pose the same questions, or something similar, that could alert the writer to a gap in the communication between writer > story > reader.

    Over all, I think a big problem is that people presume that a critique is the same as giving an opinion. The latter is easy, the former is not, and takes skill. If a writer genuinely wants to develop, they need to ensure that their critics have t he skills to help them. It is as useless having blank, loyal praise as it is to having bitter, personally attacking negativity.

    …to be honest, in my opinion, that is!

    • Hi, Colin. Those banned phrases are wonderful! I may have to borrow one or two if you don’t mind. Thank you for adding so much to the overall post. I appreciate that!

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