You create something that took an hour, a day, or a lifetime and someone comes along and expends five seconds of their time and tells you what you did wrong. It seems much easier (and more fun to some) to stomp on sandcastles than to build one. But sometimes, among the ruins of the castle we can find valuable grains of constructive critics.
Because they are concerned about “What people will say,” many people avoid the risk of creating anything new for fear of criticism, and some are even embarrassed by praise. Sometimes a river is a not an obstacle but a source that sustains life, and sometimes a high wall can be climbed to provide a better view. What people say does not have to be frightening and feedback can enable you to climb.
The first step in sifting out the gold is to qualify the critic. A good question to ask is “did the critic spend an hour, a day, or a lifetime acquiring the knowledge to make their judgments?” If they are knowledgeable in the field, you’re in luck, but sometimes even without a lifetime of knowledge, a critic can be helpful. Even a child can warn that a giant wave is about to crash on your head, but less apt at commenting on your business plan.
Next, can you do anything useful with the advice? Can you use it to improve your project? Or your next project? Like/dislike does not say enough. Is the criticism too late? Is it accurate?
Knowing when to dismiss, delete, and erase from your mind is an important skill. Destructive criticism can be thoughtless, mean and sometimes motivated by other’s agendas and shouldn’t be taken seriously. Much is a matter of opinion where critics unknowingly state their personal values. If their values and objectives happen to coincide with yours, their words could be useful.
Is the criticism given in public or private? Beyond heckles, public criticism is directed to a wider audience and provides information for others: “that was a good movie,” or more qualified, “if you like sci-fi and don’t mind seeing blood,” but not necessary directed toward the producer. Public criticism provides you the chance to respond back to the public, not the critic. “It’s more than sci-fi, it’s also a love story and the violence is limited to one scene.”
To give others useful criticism or advice, speak from your experience and set aside your self-interests. When you receive this kind of criticism, use it to climb the wall for a better view. When there is no feedback, it’s good to assume everyone is deliriously happy.