10 – How to accept and give critiques graciously

Junk that Matters 9 - A pretty PLANT PHOTOSHOOT all because of a helpful critique! HOW TO ACCEPT AND GIVE ONLINE CRITIQUES GRACIOUSLY - via Funky Junk Interiors

Critiques can be one of the hardest things to accept for creative types. Art is so personal. Who’s to say if something you do is wrong? Is there a wrong to the creative process? How dare someone critique my art! 🙂

Does this sound like you at times? Well, here’s why I think it’s healthy and wise to accept critiques, and offer them on occasion too.

A dear friend emailed me and very cautiously brought up something that bothered him on my blog. The delivery was humble and came right from the heart. I knew within an instant his intent was not to hurt but to help. He simply pointed out that my faux plants were doing nothing for my photo shoots. And then apologized in case he offended me.

I smiled and was THANKFUL. I had been thinking that for so long but just never bothered to take the plunge into real plants. I just didn’t desire the upkeep effort.

But then again I’m one that submits to magazines. Don’t they deserve he best? YES! And then there’s the year I went to a real Christmas tree because I wanted realism. Did I bonus that year? YES!

But kinda forgot about it. Until I went shopping at Country Gardens this week and ran into Ruth.

Ruth immediately recognized me from my blog and we stopped to chat for a moment. Then I spun the conversation into the wonderful world of real plants that need TLC for the long term. Gulp. She made some suggestions to which I completely ignored, and went for the high care variety. Wish me luck, Ruth!!

Going real plants is just a very small example of accepting a helpful critique. But it counts! Someone saw something I didn’t pay attention to. It was helpful and I think will earn me a few extra bonus points for pretty photo shoots.

ivy in basket via Funky Junk Interiors

How to deliver a critique

No need to be harsh. Your delivery is everything. Try offering it up as a suggestion which tends to have a softer punch. I call it the Canadian way. 🙂

“Fake plants in your photo shoots make your photos suck. You should get real ones.”


“I love your photo shoots when you incorporate plants, they look so great with your stuff! But may I suggest something? I’d love to see a real plant in your shots, I just really feel it may kick your shoots up to the next level because real looks… well, real!” (my words)

fern in crate via Funky Junk Interiors

How to accept a critique

Be open minded and throw out the immediate notion to take it personally. It’s human nature but you’ll close a door before seeing the open window. 

Read between the lines of a harsh critique and attempt to see the message hidden in there. There generally is one. Don’t reply right away if you are offended. Just take the time to see it for what it really is. Then respond back with a thank-you and why. And then be willing to try it out!

antique bingo cards via Funky Junk Interiors

Helpful critique or slam?

If the critique slams you or calls you names, their approach is really REALLY bad and generally won’t be heard because we’ll be busy hitting delete instead.  Sad because I think even in those, there’s a message to be heard. But do still try to decipher what the message is (after you’ve calmed down). There no doubt is one.

I actually laugh at these. The funniest critique or slam I’ve received to date was very simply, “Ouch. Splinter.” Helpful? I guess it told me he hated reclaimed wood projects and maybe I have enough. 🙂

How to give and take critiques graciously - via Funky Junk Interiors

Leave them up or take them down?

Honestly, I think if a critique is meant to be helpful, someone will take the time to email you with their thoughts. If they air it out in public for all to see, especially if  delivered harshly, they may mean to harm rather than help. My personal policy is to remove any offending public remarks directed at me or someone I feature. (I leave up ones that are helpful and kind) But I still take in the message.

Also know, the more you risk and put unique stuff out there, the more zingers you will get. Luckily the ratio of good always ranks higher than bad, but the odds creep higher regardless. So just be prepared to accept it comes with the territory. 

I also don’t suggest to blog or tweet or FB about it in public. Take it with a grain of salt, delete, then move on, knowing it was one in a million. Share with a friend in private if you must, then leave it be. Don’t give them the power they are seeking.

Critiques or advice, good and bad, help us grow. If you aren’t open to learning, you will never get beyond where you are right now. So next time you receive one, be gracious, thank them and either implement the advice or move on, your call. 

Just be open minded enough to realize there’s more than one way to do something and maybe this way is even better than your own. 🙂

Choosing to be a target.

Something else to consider is what you just posted. Did the tone of your post offend? Did you offer strong opinions on a touchy subject? Those kinds of posts will indeed put you in the line of fire, so it pays to deliver a message that is somewhat neutral, inviting opinions rather than dishing out your own. 

How to give and take critiques graciously - via Funky Junk Interiors

Thank-you Michael via Inpsired by Charm. I LOVE my new plants and am so grateful you spoke up! So, how did I do? Go on… I can handle it. 🙂

What’s your own take on this whole critique/advice thing? 
Do you accept them graciously or get easily offended?

Junk that Matters - a 31 day series that will help reset your priorites, make friends and enjoy your life more! via Funky Junk Interiors

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32 thoughts on “10 – How to accept and give critiques graciously

  1. Excellent post– good advice/info for all. Anyone can certainly benefit from a thoughtful suggestion. I think as we “grow up” we forget we are still growing and learning in every facet of life and tend to believe we know it all. If only everyone would be as kind and mature in their suggestions as Michael, the world would be a better place!

  2. I really agree with what you said in this post. I have been the poor choice of words commenter and felt terrible later when another follower called me out on it. I quickly typed an apology along with a better worded explanation, but the “damage” to the blogger was already done.

    What a lot of us don’t realize is that tone doesn’t come through in type. You may be a joking type of person and your friends laugh at your little sarcastic one liners, but to a stranger that comes off as rude. I am saddened that my words could have hurt a blogger that I admire (obviously since I follower her) and I remember to this day that my words should be chosen more carefully.

    Lesson learned for sure. Great post!

  3. It amazes me how thin skinned I can be to comments which were probably never intended to prick or wound. You said it well and I hope that all of us take it to heart and remember when we see an opportunity lurking.
    Proverbs 16:24 says…Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Yes?

  4. I’m a firm believer in the idea that if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all. I also think that, as you said, the delivery is the most important thing to consider when offering any sort of (hopefully constructive) criticism. You never, ever know when something you say, or write, will impact somebody’s life in a meaningful way. Don’t ever take the chance of that impact being negative. Oh…I love your photos and really never noticed that the plants were fake. Several years ago I began slowly getting rid of all my silk plants and flowers and now use only real, dried or preserved plants. I do think it made a difference in the feel of my home. Maybe some of that feng shui stuff really does make sense. :o) Enjoy the weekend FunkyJunk Donna!

  5. Well my dear, I have a question for you…. what types of plants did you use? Years ago we had real plants but after all our moves we got rid of them. Do you have any suggestions? And you did a wonderful job of presenting a rather sticky subject…. 🙂 Oh and on a sad note…. I had planned to go down to Bella Rustica but just was not able to make it… one of these days!

    • Hey Peggy! A fern and an ivy as pictured. I don’t know their plant names to be exact. They are both considered a little picky but oh well. If I’m gonna go for it, I’m gonna go for the ones I want to look at! 🙂

  6. This is a GREAT POST! No matter how discrete and thoughtful we are we can do with a reminder. My policy-& I must remind MYSELF often-is to stop and read before sending-and critique MYSELF. I notice then that my ‘attitude’ can seep through at times and am so relieved after I DELETE or rewrite. I find [personally] less is so often more-better. :^) When I worked in retail sales [ladies clothing] I did learn that there were customer situation where the appropriate thing to say was: “If you love it …” and let it go at that. In decorating -I also learned that every friend or aquaintance who asked for advice did not actually want advice. Sometimes they just want your stamp of APPROVAL. We can do that!!
    *i read this at least 3 times lol]


  7. Donna, they look fabulous. I applaud you for taking the plunge. Now, don’t forget to water them every now & then. Thanks for sharing this great advice. Have a great weekend.

  8. I really enjoyed this post Donna; so much good advise for giving or receiving criticism or helpful advise. It’s difficult to make suggestions via text message, email, or blog comments because the receiving end can’t hear the tone, so words have to be chosen so carefully. I’m always happy to give an opinion, but try not to unless asked. By the way, your plants look fabulous!!

  9. Such wise words from you Donna. I would love to have a blog but this is the one thing that holds me back. I’ve been through some bullying in my life and it is so hard to take a well meant constructive critique. And I shudder to think how it would affect me if it was a real slam. This is something I really need to work on. Thank you for “spelling it all out” so well. I am inspired to take a second look at things and maybe even a chance.
    And Michael…such a sweetheart! As we say here in the south “you can tell that boy’s had some raising!”.
    I actually found your blog through his about a year ago I think and have enjoyed every minute I’ve spent here. I look forward to more wise words from you, kinda the icing on the cake of all your funky junk 🙂

    Rebecca G. in S.C.

  10. And I would love any comments… cruel, kind… worded badly… I would LOVE them!
    Getting no or few comments on your blog makes you wonder what everyone is whispering behind their hands or when you’re not around. Seriously, I am *this* close to no longer blogging, because I’m not sure anyone but me is reading… and really just for me? Why bother?


  11. Wonderful post and great tips…..as always. It is hard for me to accept criticism/critiques but as I get older I realize it just helps me to be better(usually). It is so much more appreciated when the intent is truly to help….it is good that Michael was willing to put himself out there to push you to the next level (Is that even possible? You’re already pretty darn awesome but the live plants really do pack a visual punch.)

  12. Great post Donna.I agree it is how it is said.I had someone tell me that I did not know what I was doing..yada yada yada.Not very helpful or nice advice just mean intent.Your friend mentioned something but did it in a nice way and there was no mean intent that is the difference!Your photos are always beautiful!!! And you always inspire me!

  13. Oh D! First, amazing post as always. I learned a thing or two … or three. I don’t do well receiving criticism. Though, the timing and delivery make a world of difference.

    As for the plants? Amazing!! It’s all in the little details, and you just blew it out of the water!! Excellent choices. What a difference! In love!!

  14. Loved this one. Very poignant post. I tend to leave honest opinion comments for bloggers who are asking…I never ever will leave a snarky or hurtful comment. But, I’m also not afraid of making a suggestion, but like you I try and be courteous about it.
    If what I have to say can’t be said without SOUNDING hurtful…I try to email them directly.
    I’ve left myself open for critique. I guess any of us have that have blogs. I’ve only had 1 harsh ‘reality’ comment. I left it up. Because 1.) I asked. 2.) She meant well. (my own feelings are what made it harsh)
    3.) There was much to be learned from it.

    So glad you are doing this 31 day series…because this is all JUNK That Matters.
    🙂 Pat

  15. Wise advice, and comments that I do, are always to tell someone,,they did great work, and if I don’t like it….If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything….now once I have felt like more of a friend because of emails..then I may suggest..I have a tough skin that comes from age…but I still think with blogs kindness

  16. Hi Donna! I’v had people out of the blue walk right up and say…Ya know I’d do — if I were you! At first I was taken back, but now I just nod and thank them. Then do a little soul searching and try to see what prompted their “advice”. If its a good idea – I just have to put my own spin on. And just know, some people feel they have a mission and duty in life to change the world and everyone should things see through their eyes! Know the difference 😉

  17. I had a blogger email me about the poor photos on my blog. My first reaction was to defend myself and tell her that I was using an old 5 megapix camera. Instead, I thanked her and put some effort into lighting, editing and changing layout to allow larger pics. By swallowing my pride and taking her suggestions to heart, I have much better looking posts. I tentatively passed this advice along to another new blogger and she was actually thankful for my input. ~ Maureen

  18. good post and you’ve got a good take on the situation. Dave, my husband, died last November and, a few months ago, a blogger e-mailed me to say, “isn’t it time you moved on? People are tired of hearing about grief and you’re being such a downer.” (words to that effect; this is a woman who is a self-proclaimed witch…as if she needed to mention it! ha!…smile). Anyway, I told her if she didn’t like what I had to say, she could always not visit my blog but this WAS my life right now and I was going to blog about it. Death either comes to us or for us and there’s no escaping either. Then she wrote to say, “you’re a prickly personality and not a nice person.” I didn’t respond.
    So, some criticism is good, some isn’t but when we preface the criticism with something nice, the criticism isn’t as harsh. It’s always easier to hear something nice first, it softens the criticism and, usually, makes us respond to what we’re being told as opposed to react to what we’re being told.

  19. It was encouraging to read your story about criticsm today,I appreciated your transparency.

    I belong to a Christian writers group and from the beginning you are taught that critique is your best friend. In fact, we have critique groups just to read each other’s writing and tell what works and what doesn’t and why.Good writers who don’t take critique, never become awesome writers.

    As you said, delivery is so crucial. You’re not trying to knock someone down, you’re trying to lift them up in improvement.

    Thanks for sharing your personal story!

  20. You’re right about how critique should be phrased and how it helps us grow. I think that it depends who criticizes us, though – from my best friends, I can take a “Fake plants suck” kind of approach because I know that they still love everything else about me.

    I’m not 100% sure that offering strong opinions necessarily invites criticism, however. There are some great blogs I like to read exactly for their openness and their opinions. Blogging doesn’t have to be policitally correct all of the time. But the great thing about blogging is that you don’t have to read blogs that you don’t enjoy.

    That being said, I do enjoy yours! =)

  21. Donna, I know there are a lot of folks out there who think they’re being helpful, but actually come across really crass. Some people just don’t have any tact. Dear Michael found this out when a mean person put down what he was doing. He learned the hard way how nasty some of the readers are. Knowing this, Michael would only be kind and tactful in his constructive criticism. Isn’t he a sweetie ! I follow both of you and would never think to leave a harmful comment. As a gardener, I love when real plants are in the blog photos, but knowing that not everyone can keep a plant alive, I forgive them. 🙂 I’m glad that you’re trying though.

  22. As an Interior Design student we were always getting our work critiqued. The critiques are subjective and based on someone’s opinion. An oppinion isn’t right or wrong. However I may not agree with your opinion. It was a tough lesson to have to learn to harden our shell but it was the only way to learn and succeed toward that design degree.

    I do agree that there is a right way and a wrong way to deliver the message. I had an instructor my senior year that thought she was the “IT” in interior design. She even went by a very weird professional name. She and I didn’t see eye to eye and she was always very harsh regarding my designs. I took a C in the class and chalked it up to something I just had to get through in order to graduate. I was already working as an interior designer and managing the studio by the time I took her final class in school. My senior year I was a part time student and worked full time because of the way the University set up our course work. I was already a successful designer with a great many clients so I let her criticisms roll off my back and got a lower grade because I wouldn’t change my work to fit her design ideas.

  23. Great post, Donna – thank you for sharing! I agree that styles are so personal that it’s totally okay if someone doesn’t like what you do – in fact, I think that’s a good thing! This world would be so boring if every single person living in it had my same striped powder room or your same reclaimed wood pieces. The beauty is in the differences!

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