I've been on a stage in one form or another for most of my life. Which means I've been evaluated–both formally and informally–by big crowds of people for a long time. While getting feedback is a part of all of our lives, taking it while maintaining healthy perspective isn't always easy. Recently an entrepreneur asked for my support in marketing his work. The trigger was a small piece of feedback which was negative. While 99% of his feedback had been positive, glowing even, he was stuck on this one point. I understood his dilemma, while it was only one person, the feedback went directly against the mission of the project. At the same time, it was clear that this feedback was eating him up, a situation that wasn't good.
I can relate with this entrepreneur. For the most part I get very high marks on my talks. I remember the time when I got all 5's on a talk I gave to a very tough crowd. There was only one little note about something that I could improve. And you know what? It was that little comment that I focused all of my attention on rather than the 40 stellar scores that I received. It was clear that I cared way too much about every stinking little opinion out there and was a devout perfectionist. This was a massive turning point for me. Though I curbed the people pleasing demon long ago, it's something that I still think about from time to time.
If you want to accomplish your dreams, you're probably going to be in the public eye. And even if you don't, social media these days will make you feel like you are. All of this means that you need to develop that later of epidermis covering your body so that the comments of others don't sway you off your course. Here are the realizations I had about this whole business of giving and receiving feedback when you choose to put yourself and your ideas out in public.
Other People's Opinions (OPO) are none of your business
Getting everuone to love you or Wanting everyone to love you is a tiny precipice upon which to put yourself. One person doesn't wholly approve and you're shoved off into the abyss of perfection. For the control freaks OPO is utter torture. Yes, you can try to influence their opinion but you aren't in control. And their opinion of you is probably much more about them rather than about you. OPO is similar to Other People's Problems (OPP) You have no control over either and so
your only the sane choice is to let them go. Now the rule of OPO and OPP doesn't give you license to act like a 2 year old with a perpetual tantrum. One of the best tests to ensure that you're not abusing this rule is another one: the Mirror Rule. (Yes, I'm full of rules today). If you can honestly look at yourself in the mirror, in the deepest part of your heart, all that your mama taught you and be ok with your behavior then you're good.
When you're daring to put yourself out in the public view, there's bound to be some negative feedback and this is bound to bring out scary emotions in you. When attacked the ugly emotions of being defensive, vulnerability and perfectionism will rear up from the recesses of your brain. When they show up on your emotional doorstep just welcome them in for a nice cup of tea while you calm them down. When I get caught off guard by an anonymous comment that invokes these emotions I just think to myself, "What the ef are you doing Suzan Bond letting some anonymous person get in the way of your dreams?" and I let them go so I can move forward.
What you invoke in other people is none of your business
File this under the Other People's Problems (OPP) rule. Again, it starts with the Mirror Rule. If you can easily pass the Mirror Rule knowing that you weren't honestly trying to upset someone else then you must move along. Often when we're out in public speaking on a topic we can accidentally stumble upon people's internal land mines. When you dare to stand up in front of a room, write an intriguing blog post or work on an innovative project here are a few of the emotions you're likely to invoke in others:
The diss. Inevitably for me it's the person who sees themselves as an expert in whatever it is that I'm talking about that day. In this case I think it's a matter of somehow threatening them as I hit too close to home. Perhaps they feel they should be up there on stage. While I certainly take their opinion into considerable I try not to lose sleep over their comments especially since they're usually not my main audience.
Negativity. The other person who won't like your talk is the person who is always negative, the one who always sees something wrong what you're talking about or the way you're saying it. Negative people can't be turned around and just aren't worth your energy.
Fear. Sometimes your topic or the way you phrase it is going to change the status quo, at least for one person. And this will strike fear in their little heart. So they must criticize you so that they can stay tightly wrapped in that little cocoon of theirs. You know as well as I do that there are just some people who will kick and scream into that dark night of change. When someone is gripped in fear the kindest thing you can do is to handle them like your grandma: with kindness and respect. Even if they're growling at you like a wolf, be sure to look past that into the scared little kid on the inside.
End game? You will never be good enough, smart enough or anything enough for at least one person. Succumbing to people pleasing is a creativity killer.
So. How do you keep your creativity intact in the face of criticism? How do you get feedback and improve without being lured to the people pleasing demons like a ship to the rocks?