We’ve talked before about the importance of receiving criticism with an open mind.
But that’s easier said than done.
Nobody enjoys having their work analyzed and picked apart. Yet it’s an essential tool in growing and becoming better at your craft. Not only will it help you continue to learn and develop as an artist, you’ll also become known as someone who’s easy to collaborate with – a skill that will make a huge difference in the long run.
“I don’t think I have thick skin, but I heal fast.”
– Trevor Noah
But knowing the benefits of criticism and actually feeling good about feedback are two different things. Here are five tips for getting in the right mental space when receiving notes:
1. Think of criticism as a gift
Remember, when we get a bad script, the kind that can’t be fixed, our notes are generally brief: “Nice job, but we’ll pass. Good luck!” There’s no point in trying to polish a turd. It’s a waste of time and turd polish.
But when we get a script that we are really excited about, that’s when we break out the red pens and go to town. Because as good as it is, we want it to be even better.
It might not always feel like it, but honest feedback is an invaluable gift. Instead of dreading it, recognize how useful a thoughtful response can be and demand honest criticism. Because when the final product goes out into the world, the real critics won’t be as easy on you.
2. Be an active listener
Not only will being an active listener solidify the information and feedback in your own head, it also helps the person who’s speaking to feel heard. Plus, by truly hearing what they have to say, you’re less likely to take things personally.
Active listening doesn’t mean you’re necessarily agreeing with the other person. It simply shows that you’re obtaining the information while avoiding conflict and misunderstanding. Be aware of your body language and ask clarifying questions if needed. And don’t forget to thank them for their time.
3. Don’t be defensive
It’s natural to want to protect or defend your work, but it’s important to resist the urge. If you are talking instead of listening you aren’t really considering all the feedback. It also communicates to potential collaborators that you don’t value the opinions of others and might be difficult to work with. It’s not a good look.
Instead, swallow your pride and keep the big picture in mind. Your critics could reflect the perspective of your potential audience and hearing diverse opinions now could save you from harsher criticism down the road.
4. Build up that thick skin
The entertainment business is as much a mental game as anything else. You might as well get used to criticism, because in this industry it is ubiquitous. Film Fighters Academy uses a great analogy in their “How to Develop Thick Skin as a Filmmaker” video: “When presenting anything you create, hold it out to the side not in front of you, so when someone shoots it down the bullet doesn’t hit you right in the heart.”
You’re going to get plenty of criticism throughout your career. The sooner you learn to appreciate and respect negative feedback, the sooner you’ll bounce back.
5. Opinions are like…
Everyone is going to have an opinion, but not all of them are useful. It’s important to give all feedback serious consideration, but unless it’s coming from a gatekeeper who can greenlight your project, it’s okay to evaluate the notes and then dismiss them. Learning to trust your gut and is a great strategy for not letting criticism get you down.
“Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember — the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you.”
– Zig Ziglar
This is also why getting multiple opinions can be helpful. If more than one source gives you similar feedback, that particular piece of advice deserves greater scrutiny. On the other hand, sometimes feedback is just plain bad (5 Kinds of Feedback You Should Ignore). Remember, part of becoming a more confident filmmaker is learning when to trust yourself and ignore your critics. In the end, this is your work and the number one person you have to answer to is you.