While I basically agree we should “give honest and sincere feedback” – it’s important to realize that not all feedback is created equal. Below are my thoughts about why creatives should (and should not) give a crap about your feedback.
Creatives are intrinsically motivated
Artists manifest ideas because they must. They don’t necessarily do it for an audience or other people. The goal is to bring to life our vision from the ether/heaven/flow, whatever you want to call it. Often the reason for this creative endeavor is to solve a problem. For example, a coder may be questing for an elegant work flow, an engineer for a streamlined design, or a writer for the story that illustrates an idea.
As Steven Pressfield points out in the War of Art, creatives must be careful of being reliant on external validation. We’ve all felt how feedback – good or bad – affects our confidence. Positive feedback can be blissful and addictive, while negative feedback can reduce an artist to tears or writing blistering feedback to internet trolls. In a way, both positive and negative feedback can threaten the work.
Elizabeth Gilbert suggests creatives set very clear boundaries when soliciting feedback. Twyla Tharp, in her book The Creative Habit, writes how she has a select group she trusts to give her the unbiased feedback she needs. This is similar to how in his book On Writing, Stephen King has early readers that he uses to edit his novels “with the door open.”
Creatives are committed to manifesting art, a vision that extends beyond this realm. And yet most of us want our work to connect and be of use to others. If we are in business, we must care about what the market thinks. After all, that’s what pays our bills.
So which is it? Do we care or not?
As with so many things, the answer is both.
Principle Two Addendum
When working with creatives, I would add to Carnegie’s advice to “Give honest and sincere appreciation” three things:
1. Prove that your opinion matters. You can do this most easily by actually being a part of the target market. Alternatively, you can gain their trust over time.
2. It’s ok to be intentional about giving feedback. It’s not inauthentic to give appreciation deliberately or as a form of encouragement. In fact, in our society we tend to under appreciate work.
3. Actions speak louder than words. Appreciation is energetic currency and comes in many forms, a note, a word of praise, or a social media “like.” It can also manifest as attention, recommendations, purchases, and attendance. Consider all the many different ways you can spend that currency, through both your actions and words.
Appreciation drives success. If you want to make friends, start by helping them feel successful.