Tread lightly on their souls and how we see criticism

How do you see criticism?

I have a book out – second one actually – from a major publisher. This makes me an authority – on writing, putting content in front of people, and certainly on the impact of criticism on your psyche.

Well, it allows me to claim some authority.. you can decide whether I am worth listening to or not.

I know a few writers and aspiring writers. I know some songwriters and aspiring songwriters. I know a lot of people who do things and aspire to do things.

I just had a conversation with a writer friend of mine (hi.. you know who you are). This person wants to write and has some opportunities. But they are caught up in analyzing particulars – actually, they have been for the most part of a year and probably even longer. I told this person (see how gender neutral I am being) that they were mostly just scared! Everything else –  all the analysis – was to mask the fear.

Called out! BAM!!!

Guess how I know that this person is scared? Because they (we/I) are all scared! I’d say scared shitless but I don’t really know what that means and I find the reference sort of gross.. poopy talk went out after 1st grade – ahh.. the sophistication of 2nd grade.

Why are they scared?

Because their soul has been exposed.. or at least that is how it feels. You put out an essay, an article, a poem, a song, an idea, and you are open for criticism. Sure.. you are open for kudos and kind words but as I mentioned before, our natural tendency is to focus on and hear more loudly the criticism.

I’ve told this story before but it is worth repeating.

I spoke for a professional organization a couple years ago. As part of the presentation, they provide feedback on the overall presentation, it’s delivery, and the perceived value. I’m going to show you what my feedback looked like and my perception of it.

The actual feedback.

This graph shows what was turned into me.. black and white, simply numbers in columns.
the actual critique

Pretty good right. 23 responses. 21 excellent. 1 Good. 1 Poor. Hmmmm……

My perception of the feedback

how I saw the critique

No seriously. It was like this in my head. I sat there wondering what/how I could have reached that one person more effectively. I wondered what I did wrong! If you say you don’t ever do this you are either a) crazy – and not in a good way.. or b) lying. Maybe both.. probably both.

I’m not suggesting you ignore feedback but something like this might be telling more about that one person in the “poor” column more than it reveals anything about your presentation, book, song, etc.

There is also something to be said about finding your audience. I may not be a fan of arrhythmic/atonal music (I call it noise) but there are people who do listen to it.

A better filter

This might be a better way for me to view it (below). I’ll bold those numbers a bit and highlight the positive. The numbers matter somewhat, so if you find what you are doing appeals to no one, you might try to determine why that is the case.
a healthy perspective

So tread lightly

When providing feedback tread lightly on the artist’s, speaker’s, entrepreneur’s, child’s soul! Remember, they, like me, are likely to filter it almost exactly as I did above.

And provide some positive feedback (I am not fishing for compliments here) because critics, in general, are abnormally active and often just plain mean. As people, we tend to be vocal about what we don’t like and let what we do like pass largely unrecognized.

Tread lightly on their souls.

Posted in Blog, Coaching, Music Business, Songwriting, Writing and tagged , .


  1. Love this post… it is also good advice when talking with people, when listening to what they are saying, when dealing with friends, loved ones and strangers. It even works with dogs. It never hurts to look for the positive and share it… there is way too much negative out there!

    • Agreed.. thanks for visiting and joining the conversation. I was listening to a sports talk show on the radio yesterday. The show host were discussing how much meaner people are across digital mediums.. like twitter. It is easy to be negative with relative anonymity.

Add your thoughts here! You know you want to...