How to handle feedback — Good, bad or ugly

From the moment you become a graphic designer, feedback is one of the first things you have to learn how to deal with. It seems that everyone has an opinion on what we do and it comes usually from all over the place.

Most times, we get good feedback and this is true as we’re starting out, because there’s a lot of things that we have to absorb and learn and deal with.

But over time, you’re going to get some bad feedback from a client or boss. You might even get some ugly feedback!

There’s a lot of good information out there on working with good feedback. We also deal with good feedback really well, so that won’t be the focus here.

But the bad and ugly feedback isn’t fun. It’s easy to be put off by it or take it personal when someone is firing it at us.

So what do you do?

Don’t take bad feedback personal or be defensive about it

This might be the most difficult thing to do, especially as you hear somebody be ranting and tearing into something. It’s easy to want to scream and jump or tell them that they’re wrong. Everyone wants to stand up for what they do, and that’s just fine!

But the sign of a mature designer is to sit and listen to that feedback and not interrupt it. In some cases, I found by doing this, it slows the person down. Remember, they have to listen to what they’re saying too! Sometimes, they may get to the point where they soften their tone a little bit.

Is the feedback accurate?

Are they really tearing into something that makes a lot of sense if you think about it? Or is it just an opinion?

I think a lot of people get this confused on both sides.

The person giving the feedback may think what they’re saying is true. The person disagreeing can feel the same about their perspective. When we’re getting critiqued, it’s tough to distinguish this right away. But its worth keeping in mind. Not all feedback is accurate.

What is the motive or intent?

In most cases, the bad and negative feedback loses its harshness little if the person giving it is trying to come from a good place or has good intentions.

If they get hyped up or passionate about something, or not have all of the pieces to the puzzle, it may become misguided. In this case, its easier to redirect the conversation and get some clarifying things from them. Dig more into what they mean. You can bring up more data carefully, if it helps. If the person is sincere, this typically goes well. 

If they don’t have a good motive or intention and I usually figure this out. I’d rather sit with a smile on my face and let them get it all out if it helps them feel better. Afterwards, I can decide if the advice is worth taking seriously or if I can move on with my day.

How can you take the feedback and move forward?

This is super easy to do and if the person giving feedback knows what they’re doing. They may give you some actionable steps if it’s bad feedback that has some truth or clout to it. 

You can take a step back and reconsider how that feedback helps you out. Maybe a different approach with a new persepctive helps. Talking it over with another colleague can help.

Whatever works for you, it’s worth processing honest feedback. We don’t always like to hear the bad, but sometimes its what we need to move forward.

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