In my role at Captivate Media + Consulting I am always getting criticized. Is this a hostile environment? Do we belittle each other, constantly sizing each other up? Of course not. We have an internal review process before sending a project to a client. This includes multiple rounds of suggesting revisions, changes, and tweaks to make sure the client is getting exactly what we promised. After the video has been delivered, our clients typically have a few revisions after they’ve shared it with their team. As an editor this can feel like a lot of criticism!
So, why mention this? Researchers say that the human brain is wired to remember or experience negative events more vividly and with more detail. There’s even a term for it – negativity bias – and evolutionarily speaking it was beneficial. It allowed us to devote more processing power to avoiding danger and physically harmful events when these were commonplace. In a contemporary work setting, however, it can threaten to overwhelm us, robbing us of productivity and positivity as we devote all our attention to dealing with what we might interpret as errors. For me criticism can become this disabling force unless I do my best to interact with it in a more constructive way.
And truthfully, we all deal with criticism in some way or another. No matter your life pursuit – but especially if it’s creative – you will receive criticism. There is simply no way around it. So how do we deal with these perceived negative assessments of our work? How can we continue to create things like videos that connect people and move hearts in the face of this inevitability? Here are a few strategies I’ve been trying out.
1. Don’t take it personally. This is perhaps the most challenging one for me. When I’m at my best, I can recognize criticism as being about the work and not about me as an individual. Whether I used a b-roll shot the client liked or not doesn’t have anything to say about my value and worth as a person. Keep a healthy perspective.
2. Don’t react right away. It can be tempting to give in to the knee-jerk tendency to be defensive or instantly justify an editorial or creative choice. Don’t. If the deadline allows for it, wait and give yourself time to breathe and react from a calmer emotional state – maybe even waiting a full day. I have found allowing for an additional sleep cycle to give me an emotional ‘reset’ can be the most helpful thing.
3. Fail forward. So often in our work with schools we hear about having a growth mindset, and I think it is a good reminder when dealing with criticism as well. 99% of the criticism I receive in this job is intended to produce the best possible work. The whole point is to shine a light on what can be better. This is ultimately about growth, and as we’ve heard often on this blog, that takes getting uncomfortable – it may require us to hear things we don’t want to hear. If you can truly receive criticism as an opportunity to refine your skills and what you create, it can become an empowering tool to expand your capabilities.
In the end we all crave feedback, don’t we? Video especially is about connecting people, and we want to know that we’re making a difference, that we’ve hit our target, that we’re moving hearts and minds. The positive responses we receive in our work are equally as powerful as the critiques, maybe more so. Keeping a healthy perspective regarding all of the feedback (positive and negative) that will inevitably come will not only help you hone your craft, but maybe even make you a stronger person. Even if some days it feels like you’re always getting criticized.