Get in Your Creative Groove with Negative Feedback


Interestingly enough, most creatives, designers, and ‘ideas people’ are just high functioning introverts who, through their passion and talent, find themselves diving headfirst into people handling; the most challenging, rewarding, highly coveted skill of all time…

And it’s not always pretty.

Sharing yourself, your art, your concepts, and your dreams and knowingly welcoming criticism is confronting, a little scary, and can feel really, really personal at first, which can ultimately impede how we work and grow.

Once you get the hang of taking feedback (the good and the bad), we promise,  it doesn’t feel so confronting, it’s not so scary after all, and above all else, is unequivocally not personal. In fact, a cognitive scientist for the University of Sheffield, Tom Stafford, refers to feedback as the actual “essence of intelligence,” and it should be regarded as such.

So how do you learn to turn that frown upside-down when it comes to negative feedback?

Use the negative feedback to propel you.

1. Remember, Feedback is Critical to Improvement

The concept of feedback is so widely studied that it has an official name: Cybernetics, a term coined after the Greek word meaning ‘to steer.’

The study of Cybernetics has found that the only way to proactively control an outcome (in the instance of all living organisms and A.I) is to receive specific feedback continually, whether that be through neural firing, trial, and error, rewiring, or in many human instances, verbal cues.

Feedback is seen as an ongoing challenge to improve performance and accomplish goals while strengthening skills, effectiveness, and, most importantly, communication.

And communication is ultimately the driving force behind success.

2. Invite Negative Feedback

As many as 82% of people report wanting to receive feedback, with even higher numbers reporting they hate to give it, which is admittedly a bit of a crossroads.

To reduce feedback anxiety from both parties, the path of least resistance is simply submitting an invite to negative feedback.

By opening the floor, you can create a non-threatening, non-confrontational synergy with your client communication which can improve trust, strengthen your outcomes and ultimately help you continue to hone your craft.

Negative feedback is only un-constructive when it lacks clarity or clear actionable, so it is your job to gain clarity at all costs. Most clients will feel a little out of their creative element when it comes to verbalizing their vision, so it’s also your job to navigate the communication by leaving your emotions at the door and inviting in their ideas without flinching.

You may discover that a few simple adjustments or a demonstration of what they think they want brings even more clarity and can quickly and simply resolve the issue.

3. Actively Listen

The art of listening might be the single most crucial component in developing strong relationships in business and in life. Most people are so practiced at listening to respond that they miss what is being said and end up with narrow takeaways from what should be constructive conversations.

Actively listening (i.e., paying attention) is the highest form of respect and sets the tone for open communication, mutual respect, and collaboration towards reaching the collective goal by helping to understand the minutia and the bigger picture.

For example, if a client broadly says the colors are off and something feels too busy about the concept, you can guide the conversion more specifically because you know to listen to the concerns in the first place:

  • What colors would you like to see more prominently?
  • Let me show you a few examples of other fonts that might streamline the overall appearance?
  • Do you prefer rounded, soft edges on this aspect of design?
  • Let me show you an example of what that type of change would look like

Active listening can bring clarity to vague dislikes and can save time, money, and a lot of frustration from both parties.

10/10 recommend.

4. Vet Your Clients for Alignment

Much like any other relationship, working closely with a business owner to bring their vision to life is built on trust, communication, alignment, and chemistry. And if you don’t have those things, it’s unlikely to work, which if it’s not working, it’s stressful.

Working with brands and businesses that feel natural, easy, and aligned from the start will have a huge impact on how you hear and understand your client, relate to their brand, and can ultimately help communicate their needs through your designs and concepts.

If this relationship is mismatched from the start, it may feel chronically tricky and stressful, leading to creative blocks, distrust, and a host of other problems as the stress accumulates.

To avoid this altogether, it’s vital that you properly assess and vet potential client relationships in advance. Clearly move through the project deliverables and expectations in advance. Research the brand you’re working with to know that it feels like a good match and only move forward with projects you feel eager and confident to start.

5. Remember the Positive Stuff is Just As Good

Remember to take the good with the bad. Knowing what to do is equally as important as what not to do, and that positive feedback tells you exactly that and can boost your confidence when it comes to your work.

Your wins, positive feedback, and client likes tell you what you should do more of, which is the creative freeway for thinking outside of the box and exploring solutions. All feedback should help you gain more and more clarity to your client’s needs and tastes and continually enhance your work’s scope. The more you know, the better work you can produce and the more satisfying your work will feel.

And if you’re still not interested in dipping your toes into the feedback pool, StellaPop would be happy to do it for you (or to at least hold your hand will you dive in).

See Also:

Perspective Shifts: Tips for Finding (and) Re-Igniting Your Creative Mojo

Let’s Improve: How to Gracefully Accept Professional Criticism

Progress, Not Perfection: Ditching the Perfectionist Mindset

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