How to Ask For and Get Useful Feedback

How to deal with critique without denting your confidence

Abstract painting with no green

How to get useful feedback

  • Be specific about what you want to know. Give them a list of questions to keep them focussed (you know how minds can wander, you’re a creative).
  • Be polite when you get more than what you asked for. This person has gone out of their way to help you.
  • Don’t feel obliged to take it all onboard. Cherry pick what’s useful to you.
  • Only ask for feedback from people who’s opinion you value. Otherwise it may be irrelevant.
  • Ask for opinions from more than one person so you have a range of points of view to consider. Notice if there are any common themes coming through.
  • Don’t dismiss anything out of hand. Chew on it for a bit, there might be hidden gems in there.
  • Ask for clarity if you don’t understand what they’re saying. (“What do you mean less sisters?” Why didn’t I ask more questions at the time?)
  • Remember at the end of the day it’s your project and you can do what you like with it.

Getting feedback from fellow creatives

When asking peers remember they can easily get carried away thinking what they would do if it was their project. Writers can have ideas about what your characters should do or where the plot could go. Artists may have opinions on your choice of subject or colour palette. It’s only natural, using their imagination is what lights them up. So if you don’t want that kind of input it’s important to be specific about what you do want. Be polite if they do give you ideas but remember you don’t have to use them, it’s your project.

Think outside the box

If you don’t know anybody in your field or you want a fresh pair of eyes ask someone in another creative discipline. Also consider asking the people who are going to be your target audience. It’s all too easy to forget about their opinion some times. At the very least all of these people can be a great sounding board and at best they will give you other perspectives which push you forward in wonderfully unexpected ways.

Beware of bias

We all have biases. If the person you’re asking for feedback isn’t skilled in giving it or aware of their own biases, they may bring their baggage with them. They may dislike mother characters as they don’t get on with their own. They may not like the colour purple because it reminds them of their school uniform. It’s useful to know where they’re coming from so you can take any biases into consideration. Getting input from multiple people also helps to counter bias.

Ask yourself

Ask yourself but don’t expect instant answers. Put your work away for a while out of sight. Take time to meditate and do some mindfulness or breathing exercises. Work on other projects and take time out to relax and have fun. When you come back to it you’ll have a fresher perspective.

At the end of the day it’s up to you to make of feedback what you will. Just be careful who you ask and be prepared to get some opinions you may not agree with.

At the end of the day people are doing you a favour by telling you what they think. It’s up to you to make of feedback what you will. Just be careful who you ask. Be prepared to get some opinions you may not agree with and be grateful for their help.