Start composing your own music—here's how
Being confronted with criticism from others is sometimes visibly difficult for many people—and not just for musicians. Yet criticism can also be something very valuable, something that can help us grow and develop. In this article, you'll learn when it's worth accepting criticism and how you can deal with it more calmly.
First of all, it should be said that, of course, each person can decide for themselves how to deal with any criticism. There are many options, from agreeing to ignoring, or even attacking the criticizing person. In a professional or private context, however, the latter in particular can be pure poison for the relationship or ongoing cooperation. To avoid such a scenario, it is worth applying the following tips or keeping them in mind as a precaution.
Criticism in itself is also not actually a bad thing. On the contrary, it can point out our blind spots and broaden our perspective. Criticism gives you feedback about how you are perceived and at the same time challenges you to develop further (if you want to). Well-formulated criticism can contain enormous development potential, allowing you to grow beyond yourself and your abilities. Therefore, try not to block potential criticism right away. Don't justify yourself immediately, don't sulk, and don't return criticism directly. Instead, open yourself up to a new experience. Afterwards, you can always decide whether you agree or disagree with what you hear.
One of the most important steps in dealing calmly with criticism is to listen to your counterpart actively and without interruptions. Don't justify yourself and instead try to acknowledge that the person is simply sharing an observation with you that they feel needs improvement. What specific situation(s) does your counterpart's comment refer to? If you are unsure, simply ask so that the criticism can be explained in more detail. It is also always useful to repeat what you've heard in your own words what you have understood. This way you can make sure that you are both talking about the same situation.
Depending on the communication situation, it may be more or less difficult for your counterpart to formulate criticism constructively. It is therefore worthwhile to mentally distinguish between the form and content of your counterpart's statement. Try not to (mis)understand the criticism expressed as a personal attack, but to remain on the factual level. In this way, you can concentrate on the content - even if the criticism is awkwardly formulated. In this way, you remain constructive, even if your counterpart actually attacks you on a personal level. In the next tip, you'll learn how you can best deal with those kinds of negative situations.
If the criticism is formulated constructively, it always contains one or more suggestions for solutions. These are usually made known as suggestions or requests directed at you, so that you know what your counterpart wants from you. In the case of benevolent criticism, you can often thank your counterpart after the statement. After all, they might have opened up a new perspective that you could not perceive from your own point of view. It expands your field of vision. In the fifth step, you clarify whether you agree with the criticism or not.
Especially in the artistic field, criticism of what one has creatively created can feel devastating. This is because many artists and musicians identify with their work and their art. In such a case, it can help to become aware of your own self-worth. Always remember: no matter what your performance is and how it is evaluated by others, your self-worth remains unaffected.
Destructively formulated criticism, on the other hand, can be recognized by the fact that it does not contain any suggestions for improvement. It feels destructive and disintegrating because it is not appreciative and is formulated in a purely negative way. Sometimes forms of devaluation or shaming can be found here on a personal level. In such a case, you should definitely make your counterpart understand that you do not tolerate such statements, and ask that the dialogue remains factual and concrete.
Above all, stay calm and collected. Try to understand what the positive intention of your counterpart is. In most cases, people do not consciously act against others, but for themselves—doing the best with what they have. If you like, repeat the described observations and suggestions for improvement in your own words and ask whether they correspond to the perception of your counterpart.
In the fifth step, you can check whether you find the criticism conclusive and whether the proposed solutions are feasible for you. Maybe you agree with your counterpart's feedback and want to implement the offered suggestion right away? Or do you have other ideas for a suitable solution to the situation? Maybe you don't agree at all, but want to explain your point of view and let your counterpart in on your intentions? Perhaps you need time to let the whole thing sink in, or you would like to get opinions from third parties?
All of this is perfectly legitimate - just let your counterpart share your (interim) decision so that you both know where you stand. Here, too, clear, objective and appreciative communication is crucial.
If you have (unknowingly) behaved wrongly, my advice to you is this: own up to it and apologize. Making mistakes is not a bad thing as long as you show understanding, take responsibility for your behavior, and are willing to learn from your experiences.
A critique is ultimately "only" an opinion. You are free to agree or disagree with it. Your feeling decides in which context and from which person you feel a criticism is appropriate or inappropriate. Unsolicited, purely destructive criticism you can safely expose as such and banish from your thoughts—it reveals more about the criticizing person than about anyone else.
Last but not least, dealing calmly with criticism is simply a matter of practice. If you've had difficulty taking criticism in a relaxed manner, that's perfectly okay—just shift down a gear or two at the next opportunity, and become aware of the individual steps and options. In this way, you free yourself from toxic behavior patterns and clear the way for a new life experience in which you can grow and develop further.
If you have been shy of criticism or conflicts and therefore always preferred to go solo, I hope I could ease some of that for you. Maybe now you even feel like networking with other musicians for a joint band project? Together you can inspire each other, complement each other, and create great things. Have a look here on our platform!
If you are interested in individual coaching, you can also find out more about my services here.
Originally published on March 22, 2023, updated on March 22, 2023