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How do you work with overly critical people?

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Aydee Latty

I'm just asking questions.

Creative work with overly critical people

So we’ve all known and worked with that person. That person is never happy. The work is never quite right, and there’s always one tiny detail missing. ‘That font should be 1pt bigger!’. We all know that type of person, and they can seriously kill your creativity. As creatives, we need optimism and hope to survive. We need to stay in the creative mindset for the ideas to continue. 

The question is, how do we positively work with a critical person? What are your strategies for coping with criticism, particularly for the long term? Here’s a couple of things I try.

Taking a deep breath.

Taking a breath isn’t easy when receiving criticism, but it helps give yourself a moment to counteract what’s happening internally. Your heart rate is going up, adrenaline flowing, muscles tensing up. A prolonged intake of breath gives the brain a burst of oxygen, supplying you with valuable time to think about your options. Taking a deep breath takes your focus off whatever’s angering you, which can help you “de-escalate,” according to Mitch Abrams, Psy.D.

After your breath, you may have time to think about how to respond to what your hearing.

Look for the positives.

After a deep breath, you should take a moment to pause and think about what you’re hearing and how to respond.

Some people might be well-intentioned but don’t have the skills or emotional intelligence to communicate their needs in a positive way, which means you have to do the extra brain work to figure out what they are trying to say. They might want the best for the project, so try to hear them and find the positives in their words. Will it make the project better? Are they making any good points about the work? If you hear something repeat it back to them in a positive way, encourage them and their ideas. Giving them positive feedback will help boost their confidence and show that you value their opinion. It also gives you a sense of accomplishment.

What techniques do you have for staying calm under criticism? I’d love to hear it.  



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