Feast on Feedback

As much as we say we appreciate it, I’m fairly certain that no one truly enjoys critical feedback. Hearing it forces us to look at something we were blissfully unaware of, if not working pretty darn hard to ignore. We especially hate hearing it when we think we’re in a groove and someone says something that quickly snaps us out of it. Which is exactly what my wife did to me regarding this very blog.

Not only does my wife tolerate me (something people often question about her), she also edits every post1. While the subject matter may not always be her favorite (she’s a bit sick of the geek stuff by now), her opinion is certainly informed. Two weeks ago, she sat me down and pointed out that the site had been bit lax on tactical posts. She told me that things were getting a little “fluffy.”

I may be alone here, but my instinctual reaction to this kind of critical feedback tends toward the argumentative. I thought back in my head, pulled the few tactical posts that came to mind and began to debate. The problem was, she wasn’t looking to argue; she just wanted to let me know and backed off of the subject entirely. This left me with only one option: I stewed. I let my frustration wane and when I was finally ready to move on from the subject and talk to her once more, she had already fallen asleep beside me. This unexpected turn of events led me to a second option: I opened my laptop and decided to read through my previous posts. This time, I wasn’t looking to prove my own point… I decided to attempt to prove hers.

As is the norm in my household, my wife was 100% right and I was dead wrong. While I was happy with my editorial posts, the tactical was lacking. It wasn’t that I was writing anything bad (or at least worse than I normally do), it was that it had lost some of the balance of “the how” and “the why” that I strive for with this site. I went back to the posts that were still left for the week, added in a bit more meat where I could and decided to take a more tactical approach to last week’s offerings. The results? The single best week of traffic in this site’s existence. And by a large margin.

Traffic for A Better Mess since I started blogging regularly in April 2011

Now some of that came from a generous link from Gabe at Macdrifter as well as two retweets from Ken at OmniFocus, but I’ve done similar “how to” and technical posts in the past. Part of me can’t help but believe that the ability to take absorb the criticism and course-correct helped achieve these results. Hearing someone’s point (this is not always my strong suit2) and adjusting accordingly made a big difference.

So, for those of you who are like me and tend to respond negatively to negative feedback, let me keep the trend alive and offer you some tactical advice. When someone tells you something you don’t want to hear:

  • Feel free to argue at first. Get it out of your system.
  • Put their comment(s) aside until your emotions get out of the way.
  • Examine the work or actions that they criticized and attempt to prove them right.
  • Create and conduct an experiment to test the merit of their criticism.
  • Tell them that they were right and encourage them always offer constructive criticism3.

There’s always a chance that the advice you get will bad or just doesn’t fit, but if it’s coming from someone you respect, someone who really understands what you’re attempting, you are really going to want to give it the consideration it deserves. No matter how badly you hated hearing it.

Speaking of, if you have any thoughts on the site, I’d love to hear them. What do you think is working? What would you like to see more of? Less of? Let me know in the comments. I can’t tell you I’ll take every last bit of advice, but I can promise to take it seriously.

  1. How else did you think you were avoiding my chimp grammar?  

  2. In fact one of the possible titles for this very site was “You’re wrong and let me tell you why.”  

  3. If you really suck at doing this, you can just write a blog post about it and ask them to edit it.  

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