Don't Be A Knee-Jerk When It Comes to Feedback

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Photo credit: Sarah Ackerman

I'm gonna tell you a little secret. I still get sweaty palms whenever I submit a piece of work for feedback. Doesn't matter if it's a blog post. A new ZURBword. A paper napkin sketch. Or pitching a still raw, uncooked idea. The anxiety a creative-type can feel when it comes to getting feedback is the worse feeling in the world. But feedback is an unavoidable and necessary part of the job.

Let's face it, putting work in front of people for criticism is pretty hard. After all, who wants to expose something they've poured their blood, sweet and tears to criticism? Who likes hearing where they've gone wrong? But we need constructive feedback to improve our designs, our products. We need good feedback or we risk failure.

And you'll get several types of feedback from different types of people on your team. So it's easy to have a knee-jerk reaction, but that won't help you or your work in the long-run.

How To Take Feedback Well

Next time you're getting sweaty palms while getting feedback, try to keep the following in mind:

  • Don't take it personally. You've spent a lot of time on your design, put a lot of effort into it. You've fully invested yourself in your work. So it's understandable that your first instinctually reaction is to take it personally. After all, it's your baby. But feedback is about the work, not you.
  • Be willing to admit you're wrong. It's hard to separate yourself from your work. You're too close, biased. By admitting you're wrong, you'll end up asking specific questions, which will more easily ferret out potential solutions to problems.
  • Be willing to fight for your ideas. Admitting you're wrong doesn't mean you have to put away the boxing gloves. If it's something you firmly believe in, something you're passionate about, be prepared to back up your choices with concrete numbers or competitive examples that have either worked or failed. However, you won't win your fight if you constantly highlight that the other person is wrong and argue for the sake of arguing.
  • Follow through. It's not enough to receive feedback. We have to prioritize the feedback we receive. Think of it as design triage. Then we have to take action, implementing that feedback and iterating on our designs.

Feedback doesn't have to give you sweaty palms. Remember that it's not about you, but the work. Getting good feedback can help take your work to the next level of awesomeness. However, your work won't get there if you're a knee-jerk reactionary every time you receive feedback.

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