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Defensive Much? Your Ability to Deal with Criticism Determines Success in the Air AND on the Ground!

Truth? Criticism is hard. It can hurt. Even the most constructive of comments can sometimes land wrong, and let’s not even get to the shooting-straight-from-the-hip kind! What’s a sensitive artist soul to do? Armor up, Gorgeous – criticism is a gold mine.

Why It’s So Valuable

I recently gave a student (who wishes to go pro) some rigging corrections, and if looks could kill, I would have forks stabbed into my eyeballs and at least 20 knives impaling key organs. Instead of asking questions and embracing an opportunity to learn, girlfriend shut down. What a shame! The older I get, the more I realize that the world is FULL of people with oodles of things to teach you if you shut your mouth and open your ears (which, admittedly, I could do a lot more of myself!). Got an expert giving you corrections, advice, or critiques? JUMP on that train, friend! Even if it’s not info you can use right now, or if it doesn’t align with your goals or beliefs, come at it with a receptive heart and see what you can find. Brace yourself – you may be mistaken, working inefficiently, or seeing a very narrow slice of the whole picture.


When to Listen and When to Mentally Moon Them


  • when they’re an expert and know more than you do – ask them lots of questions!
  • when they’re your target audience – listen carefully, this is marketing gold
  • when they have a very different point of view – this can shake you up and encourage you to see more than just your back yard

Moon them:

  • if they are decidedly NOT an expert
  • when they’re far from your target audience
  • when they’re abusive or aggressive (you can still consider their input even if it’s delivered in an indelicate way, just mentally moon them while you do it)
  • they are someone you suspect of having impure motives, or not considering what is best for you


How to Thwart the Tantrum You REALLY WANT TO THROW

Truth? I really struggle with this. If I’m in a receptive mood, no problemo. BUT, if I’m having an (ahem) “sensitive” day, all criticism is like nails on a chalkboard. And you know what? I lose. When I succumb to defensiveness, and essentially stuff my fingers in my ears and scream LALALALALALALALA, I lose. When I think of some of the opportunities that have passed me by because my ego got in the way, I cringe. But – I can do better! And so can you.

  • Be a student, even if it’s just for a few minutes
  • Write it down – there’s something in the act of writing things down that makes them feel less personal
  • Speaking of, don’t take it personally – easier said than done, for sure! Especially when it FEELS very personal. State your point of view without resorting to defensiveness, and listen to see if there’s some truth in what they’re saying. Asking questions is a great way to do this!
  • If you’re getting defensive and emotional, explain that you’re not in a place to really hear them right this second, but you value what they have to say. Ask if you can continue the conversation another time, and then do it! People understand!

The more we can really listen and take good criticism, the better we get. Period. This is something I’m really committed to working on – come join me! Love and pull-ups, Laura

For more on becoming a better student, have a look at this blog post! 🙂 

Are we too thin-skinned to handle criticism? Interesting read!

As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, the F-books, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are sharing things these days.


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3 comments on “Defensive Much? Your Ability to Deal with Criticism Determines Success in the Air AND on the Ground!”

  1. Fallon Reply

    Great post, Laura! This topic has been coming up a lot at my studio as we are a new company and learning how to work together. I love giving people notes because I love receiving them so much but I do have to remember that we aren’t always be in a space to receive them. I started using part of Liz Lerman’s Critical response process and asking people if they would like to hear feedback instead of just blurting it out. As corny as I feel sometimes saying “I have some feedback about part of your piece, would you like to hear it?,” it really helps set a nice tone for it. It also help me be more sensitive to where others are in their creative process.

  2. Tracy Reply

    Hey Laura! Love all of your blog entries. I also do what Fallon does. I say, “Hey, are you open to some feedback?”

    When I’m teaching my class and a student get sulky when I make a correction, it’s harder because it’s my role to give the feedback. In that case, I usually say, “Remember, it’s difficult because we are doing some amazing feats of strength and it should be impossible but you’re doing it so you’re already amazing.”

    Thanks and I wish I could be closer to your brilliance.

    Love from California!


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