Not All People Who Criticize You Are Wrong

Sometimes there’s truth behind the negativity.

No writer is perfect.

Not as they write their first draft, or at any point thereafter.

You know this. Because chances are, if you’ve published anything on the internet, someone, somewhere, has taken time out of their day to point out at least one thing you didn’t do correctly, or to their liking.

Typically, criticisms vary by degrees of usefulness. Some comments are, let’s be honest, absolute trash, and aren’t worth your energy or time.

But sometimes, criticism holds at least a little bit of truth, even if it doesn’t look like it at first.

Often, we dismiss most of the negative feedback thrown at us because of its tone or context. Some of it could actually help us improve our writing.

Strip away the rude demeanor, the unnecessarily harsh words, the obvious over-exaggeration, and you might still find some valid feedback.

Like, you use the word ‘like’ too much.

Or you use way, way too many unnecessary adjectives.

Or you messed up bad, didn’t do your research, spelled a thing wrong, you did a thing incorrectly.

Even professionals don’t always publish their best work.

So the next time someone uses their behind-a-screen anonymity to criticize you, first ask yourself: Are they pointing out legitimate flaws in your work, or are they just throwing stones at you because they’re bored and need to feel accomplished?

If they’re pointing out something you could have done better, do your best to ignore the person who wrote the “mean” comment and focus on the feedback itself. Pretend it’s coming from an editor, in a much more professional manner. Then do with it what you will. Or don’t.

We all wish that every piece of feedback we receive wasn’t disguised as a personal attack, whether it was originally intended to be or not. But that’s not how the internet works. Most people don’t actually want to help you kindly. They just want to feel like they’re more knowledgeable or detail-oriented about something than you are. And they very well may be.

There are exceptions, of course. Though I’m still not sure why people feel the need to give feedback when a writer doesn’t ask for it. In most cases, it doesn’t hurt, but it’s definitely harder for new writers to separate what’s actually helpful from what generally is not.

People don’t always know how to properly communicate their thoughts or opinions. That doesn’t mean what they have to say doesn’t matter.

But don’t take these things too personally. If they don’t know you, they really don’t deserve to make you feel bad about yourself. Ever.

Learning to deal with criticism isn't easy. Here's how to make it a little easier.

How to Handle Negative Feedback

How to Get Over Your Fear of Criticism So You Can Be a Better Writer

The 4 Stages of Accepting Negative Feedback

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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7 thoughts on “Not All People Who Criticize You Are Wrong

  1. I LOVE this! Especially this: “If they don’t know you, they really don’t deserve to make you feel bad about yourself.” I will remember that the next time a troll comes after me. 😀

    1. I’m so glad you found something in this post to walk away with and use in the real world. :) My Twitter mentions exploded yesterday with garbage comments (and some not-so-garbage points) and even I had to refer back to this. The struggle is real.

  2. Often I find the real issue is how someone expresses their feedback.
    Many infuse their remarks with so much hostility that it’s hard to see past that.
    But I do agree that any response, any feedback, theoretically, can be useful, as long as it’s not a simple generic “I love it”/”I hate it”.

    I also think there’s a way in which most conversations, at the end of the day, are rooted in “I like”/”I don’t like” and/or “I agree”/”disagree”.
    It’s hard to “say” anything about “something” without expressing either positive or negative opinions about it.

    1. I completely agree with this ;) I think some people just don’t know how to communicate what they’re actually thinking/feeling. Like, if you didn’t like something, explain why. If you didn’t agree, I’d love to know the reason! It’s not that hard, is it?

      1. Mmm. And there’s so much difference between “I felt the resolution was a bit predictable/easy to predict” and “Awful! Just Awful!” (I hesitate to even say such words as an example.)
        In all things, there are ways to express that can be rooted in “helping”, and those that are “careless” and may do harm.
        Fortunately, I feel like most within the blogging community have enough insight through their own experiences to always express themselves in a polite and helpful manner, which is one of the things I love about blogging, the community. So many generous givers out there.

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