The Fine Art of Filtering Feedback

The Fine Art of Filtering Feedback

December 30, 2018

The more experience I gain working with exceptional people…the more I believe that those exceptional people have developed a unique ability that I’d like to call The Fine Art of Filtering Feedback.

The best way I know how I explain it is by sharing something that happened several times when I was a student in the creative writing program at Kansas State University.

When you are part of a workshop, every short story or essay you write is critiqued by the rest of the class. That’s when you find out who actually knows how to provide helpful feedback and who doesn’t.

Some people say stuff like, “I don’t like this character’s name” or “I don’t like Ernest Hemingway and your sentences sound a lot like his” or “I don’t really know much about Seattle so I wasn’t interested in your story.” Those are the people I learned to completely ignore. Why? Because their criticism is based on preference. They aren’t interested in what you are interested in. Your style is not their style. They are evaluating you by their own idiosyncratic whims and opinions. Their feedback is completely subjective and as a result…worthless.

But other people I listened to. I learned from them and got better. These people said stuff like, “Your scene description needs work” or “Vaughn, there’s really no central conflict in this story.” They might have had zero personal interest in the subject of the story or the message of the essay, but that didn’t matter to them. What mattered to them was objective standards of excellence. They didn’t have to personally like or resonate with what I wrote to recognize whether it was, objectively, a good piece of writing.

So here you have it:

HATERS focus on style. They evaluate you based on their preferences. They are trying to get you to become them. So their input is worthless. Ignore it.

HELPERS focus on substance. They evaluate you based on objective standards of excellence. They are trying to get you to become the best YOU. So their insight is invaluable. Embrace it.

Successful people understand this. It’s what liberates them from haters opinions, but keeps them open to helpful insight.

It’s how they adapt.

Evolve.

Overcome.

WIN.


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