Sunday, January 3, 2010

Embracing criticism & change

Does that title up there make you grimace or shudder in distaste?  I'd say very few of us relish the idea of listening to criticism, particulary when it comes to something as personal as our writing on our blogs.  The plain truth is that constructive criticism, offered with a kind heart and good intentions, should be something we all welcome with equal good will.  Constructive is the key word here, my friends!  Criticism, just by nature of definition, can get easily out of hand and quickly can shift from helpful advice into a monster of epic proportions.  Obviously no one is going to embrace that type of verbal attack, nor should they.

The point I am making here is that none of us are perfect.  We can all benefit from change, but it is a common occurrence for all of us that we get so caught up in life that we lose sight of the fact that we might be stagnating in some fashion.  If we're fortunate, there are people around us...friends...colleagues...who care enough to offer helpful, constructive criticism.  How we choose to accept those comments is that which defines who we are as people.

If you're like me, perhaps you ventured into the blogging world with very little idea of the sheer enormity of the concept.  I truly had no idea what I was getting myself into when I began my blog in September of 2009.  Healing Morning began as a desire for me to learn about the blogging process and add another skill to my resume'.  To my surprise, it very quickly morphed into something I never expected and I admit that I'm still adjusting and scrambling a bit to keep the tip of my nose above the blogging waters.

Through the blogging world, I met my Authentic Blogger (AB) partner, Marty (Coffee with Marty).  Not too long ago, we were discussing some point about the AB group that I can't remember and Marty told me, rather bluntly, that I needed to think about revamping my blog page.  It wasn't a rude comment - it was just blunt.  I admit that I was very resistant and kind of brushed his suggestions to the side, saying that I would give it some thought.  I LIKED my blog design, after all, and I had put effort into creating a presence that I felt portrayed who I am and what I wanted Healing Morning to convey to readers.

I did give it thought as I had promised, but felt for a good while that I didn't need to make big changes.  Then we created the Authentic Blogger group page on Facebook and both of us were dumped right slap into the middle of this vast ocean of new experiences.  We were exposed to a whole slew of fascinating blogs and we both were forced to engage in a lot of research.  Slowly, because I rarely embrace change quickly or enthusiastically, I began to see that, yes, perhaps Marty's comments were valid.  My Healing Morning blog is in need of a facelift.

I'll begin that process in the next few weeks, in between all the other projects that are surrounding me.  Through the AB community, I'm being exposed to really sharp marketing and design concepts for blog pages, so I'm ruminating on the style and format that will best suit my needs and will accurately represent my vision of Healing Morning.  I am quite confident that by the end of this revamping process, I'll be very pleased with the new version of my blog.  I am also willing to predict with a fair amount of certainty that by being open to this constructive criticism, and embracing change, my "new and improved" blog will most likely capture more attention and garner more followers, more quickly than the old design.  I won't know this for sure until the new design is finished and goes live, but I just have a feeling it will increase traffic.

While I might not have jumped instantly to accept Marty's comments, I did slowly come around, in my own fashion and see the veracity of his words.  Change, and criticism, although at face value they may sound like the voices of doom, are both tools that are meant to sharpen our skills, hone our abilities and, I daresay, refine our character.  We are simply not capable of perfection in this world, but if we are open to listening to the insightful opinions of those we trust the most, we can achieve a much better, brighter version of any given facet of ourselves than we might have accomplished all alone.  It's simply my thought for the day.  You may feel differently and that's entirely acceptable.  We all choose different methods and approaches. 

For this moment in my life, I'm tossing my ego aside and sliding my arms into a new coat of that shows my willingness to entertain some new concepts and experiences.  Stay tuned for the sparkling new version of Healing Morning, coming to you in an AB wall post soon!!

Dawn S.
Author, The Authentic Blogger blog
Author, Healing Morning blog
Co-Creator, Authentic Blogger FB group page


FCEtier said...

This may be a bit of semantics, but I don't think you can build something (construct) and tear it down (criticize) simultaneously. The two terms cannot co-exist. I'll accept criticism, just don't try to disguise it as something else. Preferably, tell me what you LIKE about what I'm doing, and it will be obvious what you don't like by it's exclusion.

In his famous book, HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE, Dale Carnegie lists 32 rules of human relations. The first seven are under the sub-title of "Become a friendlier person".
Rule #1 is: Do not criticize, condemn, or complain.
Hmmmmmmmmmmm, so if I follow that rule, what can I do? The next six!

Dave said...

I don't agree with that at all, as that just seems to take "criticize" to a whole new level of negativity.

There's nothing wrong with pointing out faults in something if those faults are holding it back. The "constructive" part comes in the manner you present those criticisms as well as what you do with it.

If you just say "you know, your blog really sucks," that's definitely criticism! But it's not constructive.

However, if you say "I'm not sure the lavender text works with the white background on your posts. You might want to look into changing that," then that's constructive.

The definition of "criticize" is *not* "tear it down." It's "to consider the merits and demerits of and judge accordingly." The synonym is "evaluate." There's nothing wrong with evaluating something as long as you're not rude about it.

Besides, how can you say everything that you *like* about a blog? For many blogs, that would take quite a long time! And then if something's not mentioned, that means I don't like it?

Sorry, but I completely disagree with that.

Ruth said...

Hey everyone, this is a really important discussion, I think, because once your writing is out there... well, you're probably going to run into criticism whether you want to or not. I agree with Dave that the definition of criticism is to evaluate both the effective and ineffective traits of anything.

I used to be a writing consultant at my college, so I've had quite a bit of experience with criticizing other people's work...and since I was simultaneously being criticized (i.e. "trained") on how I responded to students, I got to hear a lot about my strengths and weaknesses as a responder too. All around, it was hard.

I think we need to be careful, compassionate, honest, and detailed with our comments. I could ramble on about this quite a bit, but honestly, I've come to some different conclusions about all this in the past year of my spiritual journey. For instance, I don't worry so much about attracting readers; as much as I like to know people are reading my work, I'd rather leave it in God's hands and see who He sends to me just as He has sent me to certain blogs. Also, I've learned that no amount of "work" to improve our writing can communicate what's in our hearts into someone else's heart; only the Holy Spirit can do that. So, after years of drafting and revising and drafting and revising for college plus my daily efforts to rework and rework my documents for my boss at work, I've begun to spend less time on that when I post to my blog and more time praying for the Spirit's guidance in what I do and asking for His help in laying aside my own efforts so that I don't "quench the Spirit." More than anything, I simply hope to speak the Truth and share how wonderful my Lord is!

Healing Morning said...

Goodness, I had no idea this would be such a hot topic! I love when dialogue is sparked, however inadvertently.

To both Chip and Dave, thanks for both taking time to read the blog post and for going the extra step to post comments.

One thing I do want to clarify - my statement that my wonderful partner, Marty, made a "blunt" comment about my blog was not meant to indicate he was denigrating, being judgmental, harsh or negative. His intent was, and always is, to help both of us and the AB community at large, to become better bloggers. Growing with template design is the next logical step for me and this was the main point I was working to convey.

I happen to prefer straight talk, and getting to the point. Marty has a great ability to do that without, let me stress this, coming across as "rude" with the delivery. He is one of the most positive, supportive people I know, and that's why we have such a strong partnership.

So, all of that being said, I appreciate the comments of both gentlemen. I don't necessarily agree with a few of the comments, but that's the whole reason for blogging. We get the chance to write our thoughts & opinions and other people can comment freely.

My only request is that comments are written and posted in a positive manner and that dialogue happens with respect to all parties.

Thanks again!

~ Dawn

Anonymous said...

Having just read this post, I feel I could throw my own voice in here. Yes, I did make a comment about Healing Morning, but it was at a time I too, was discontented in my own blog design.

One thing you will learn about me, I am straightforward. That is one quality I have often regretted, until a friend of mine told me, "Marty, I like it that you tell me how it is."

I have learned to refine this quality, but the human in me will still make mistakes. I have been on the receiving end of criticism and I must say, I like the ones that say, "I think you need to change ____. Here's why."

I invite this kind of criticism. I may even be resistant, but I think it is crucial to growth. When I was just new into blogging, I had a nice lady comment on my blog and say, "I love your blog, but I have a few words for you. Berries & Cream Blog Designs." I asked her a few more questions, she answered positively and helpful, and we've become good friends.

I appreciate honesty. I appreciate the good discussion on here. And I especially appreciate Dawn's post on embracing criticism and change. Amen!

Healing Morning said...

Ruth, thanks for your post. It didn't publish until I had already written my last reply.

The focus seems to be jumping on the negatives here - although I may be misinterpreting everyone's comments. My blog was written to highlight the POSITIVE aspects of criticism and being open to change, when both come from a kind perspective.

"Criticism" just seems to carry negative connotations and clearly causes knee-jerk reactions for many. My intent was to look at the flip side of the word, or whatever synonym you wish to apply, and see that it can have positive impact.

Thanks Ruth, for the thoughtful comment!

~ Dawn

Dave said...

Hi Dawn

I am actually in agreement with your post, and was more responding to the first comment when I was "concentrating on the negative." I fully agree with you about the value of constructive criticism.

Sorry if that wasn't clear in my original comment.

Anonymous said...

Ruth, your thoughts on this were priceless. I just want to say "ditto" to everything you said!

Healing Morning said...

Hey Dave, thanks for the follow up post - it helped a great deal to understand where you were coming from with your first post. I've learned from past experience that it is very easy to misinterpret written communication - we can't see facial expressions, tone of voice, inflection, etc., and jumping to conclusions can happen.

I appreciate the clarity, because I was baffled to begin with that my post might have been construed as focusing on negatives! My whole intention for the post was to focus on the positive application of constructive criticism.

Anyway, thanks so much for the follow up. All is well in the land! ;-)

~ Dawn