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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Dealing With Negative Feedback

People Holding Scorecards
If you write (and you decide to go public), you’re going to get your share of reactions.  Some of them will be good.  And, as I’ve recently learned, some of them will be not so good.

Most of us are pretty good at dealing with positive feedback.  But negative feedback?  Not so much.  As much as we say it doesn’t matter, negative comments always hurt – especially when they’re personal.

So, from a first-time author who’s only had one book released for a month, here are 10 tips I’ve learned so far.

1.  It goes with the territory.  If you are going to write a book, expect it.  No one is exempt from criticism.  (And, if people are talking about your book, at least they’re reading it!)

2.  Consider the source.  Who is making the comment?  Is it a random blogger who doesn’t even have an identifiable profile?  Is it someone outside your target audience?  Or, is it a credible voice in the writing community, or a leader from an audience you intend to reach?

3.  Don’t strike back.  As tempting as it is to respond to every comment, don’t.  In most cases, it’s not worth trying to “set the record straight.”  Especially if the attacks are personal, resist the temptation to join the mud-slinging.

4.  Learn from it.  Is the comment valid?  Does it present a common message or theme?  If so, you can become a better person (and a better writer) by taking the comment to heart. 

5.  Seek wisdom.  Talk to the friends and colleagues you respect in the writing community.  After all, when you’re in the midst of receiving criticism, it’s hard to be objective.  Sometimes, you need a lens.  In my case, I went to Rachelle Gardner, who gave me some great insights, as well as some helpful posts.

6.  Seek support.  In addition to seeking wisdom from those in the writing world, we all need our family and friends – especially those outside the writing world – to keep us sane.  My niece, Laura, wrote me a prayer last week that I will hold dear forever.  And my girlfriends will gladly take my side on just about anything!

7.  Don’t take it personally.  Usually, those criticizing you don’t know you.  Take the constructive feedback, and leave the personal attacks at the door.  And, as several wise friends have reminded me, God alone knows your heart. 

8.  Find the silver lining. I was putting my 9-year-old son, Nick, to bed last week, and I told him that a few women who read the book had attacked my busy lifestyle—questioning whether I could really be a good mother.  He said, “wow, that’s really mean.”  But then he said, “I think they are giving you a compliment.  What they’re really saying is that they know they have it easier than you.”  (See Romans 8:28.)

9.  You can’t please everyone.  Everyone isn’t going to like your book.  Everyone isn’t going to like you.  As writers, our goal in life should not be to please everyone.  Can you think of a single writer you respect who has both intended and succeeded to be a universal people pleaser?  Even if it you wanted to achieve this goal, it’s not possible.

10.  Numbers 1-9 are easier said than done.  As much as my head knows that the above tips are true, my heart still wants to wallow in self-protection and even a little pity.  I know full well that I can only respond to criticism through the grace of God – with much patience, prayer, and practice.  The fact is, I’m not very good at it, but I’m getting better. 

Please help me refine my tips -- I have a feeling I’m going to get to practice these tips over and over again!

How do you deal with negative feedback?

(After writing this post, I continued to find more helpful tips -- such as a post by Laura Boggess, Wanted:  Friendly Reader, at High Calling Blogs.)


Heidiopia said...

Wonderful tips! The only thing I could add is "keep the faith." When all else fails, pray for perspective. :) Have a great day, Susan!

Alison said...

Love the tips! Coming from a sales background where I've been chewed up and spit out by angry clients, I had to learn quickly how to emerge from that criticism without being devastated.

I agree with the silver lining tip. It builds our character to be challenged and pushed by others, whether they're right or wrong. It's not what happens to us, it's what we do with it, right? Don't let them get the best of you!

As my mama has always said, just kill 'em with kindness (easier said than done, I know)!

Susan DiMickele said...

All good points. Thanks for all your encouragement -- I really need it this week! And, yes, can't forget to keep the faith. (thx Heidi for the reminder)

DenaDyer said...

Your tips are right (or should I say write? ) on! CONGRATS on your first book release. I'm glad you have people who are encouraging you. You're right--you can never please everyone.

I know one thing--we're glad to see you join the High Calling network. I look forward to getting to know you and your writing better in the days to come.

Graceful said...

How do I deal with it? Not well! I may have to review these tips again and again!

BTW, just finished your book. Loved it. Your descriptions of grocery shopping with your kids are spot-on. I really appreciate your dead-pan wit and your brutal honesty. And frankly, I do not know how you do what you do -- law partner, mother to three, wife, writer, blogger. Good grief, woman!