Recently, I’ve stepped out of my shell a little more. A few days ago, I sought advice on a project I’ve been working on. I was proud of how far I’d come, but knew I needed a fresh pair of eyes. As is the way of the internet, I posted it on an anonymous forum explicitly asking for critique. I was setting myself up for potential heartbreak, and I knew that. However, I also knew I couldn’t proceed without a fair assessment from random, relatively unbiased internet strangers.
At first, the post went untouched. Instead of waiting around for an answer, I busied myself with other work throughout the day. Finally, closer to evening, I got a nibble! The reply was brief, yet constructive. I took everything this person said to heart and applied it – even saving the response elsewhere to look back on.
Hey, this isn’t so bad, I thought to myself. Of course, this was just one reply. A few others trickled in that were kind but ultimately, they weren’t critiques I was looking for.
And then, as you can guess, I did get a critique. A short but confrontational, poorly worded one at that. It didn’t say much in the way of my project but implied quite a lot about my personal character which I didn’t appreciate. It stung, but honestly, it wasn’t the worst I’ve come across as a dedicated internet denizen.
I had to sit back for a minute or two to acknowledge how I felt, let it roll through my system, take a deep breath, and read it again.
Out of all the things they said/implied, only one was a genuine, useful response to the work I posted. Perhaps this person is bad at communicating, perhaps something got lost in translation, or perhaps they really are a sour individual hiding behind a computer screen. I don’t know. I don’t pretend to know.
I replied to them and agreed with the one good point they made. I didn’t waste my time trying to argue with them (don’t feed the trolls) and I thanked them for taking time out to respond to my request. And I left it at that.
When you put yourself out there for the world to judge, you invite both good and bad. How you respond to the bad is paramount. I could’ve argued with this person all day, and neither of us would have come out the winner – we’d just be wasting our time. On the same token, you can’t always shun harsh critique because, like in my case, there may be a nugget of helpfulness just under the surface. Additionally, there could be rivers of compliments and kind words, but not one of them will allow you to grow, only to stroke your own ego.
No man is an island, and we all need others to help ourselves mature into decent human beings. Sometimes insults are just insults. But, every once in a while, you can take the gritty sand of their words and turn them into pearls.