When I was a young reporter at the Granite State News, I met the publisher of the newspaper. At 22 years old, I was very impressed by his title and was eager for our conversation. It didn’t go quite as I planned, as he had “constructive feedback” for my writing.
We often talk about the different phases of grief, but I think there are also phases to hearing unsolicited advice (or at least there are for me):
Phase #1: Immediate anger/denial
I remember thinking to myself how stupid his advice was. He had the audacity to suggest the importance of hooking someone’s attention as soon as possible. He had told me about a lede paragraph that another reporter had written that he loved. It was about a woman who died while getting takeout. The lede was something like, “[Woman’s name] died hungry last night.” I can vividly remember thinking, “Well that is dumb. That doesn’t even make sense. That is offensive.”
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Phase #2: Motivation
I walked out of that meeting fired up. I would outwrite Shakespeare and bring people to tears with my next article on the Wolfeboro Knitting Circle. One of Kyle’s favorite stories is The Count of Monte Cristo. I get it. When someone doubts you, vengeance is a heck of a motivator!
Phase #3: Delayed acceptance
I was laying in bed Monday night trying to fall asleep, and I thought about that lede and that moment, which happened more than 15 years ago. I thought to myself, “You know what, that was good advice.”
At that moment I realized that the publisher hadn’t been trying to attack me or discredit my hard work. He was trying to make me better. It is easy to get sensitive and defensive in those moments. We all want positive feedback, but it can be harder to accept the negative. But it is within the negative that we truly grow.
So grow a thick skin, lean into the feedback and just maybe someday, someone will be using your work as an example when criticizing someone else!