January 10, 2013

Feedback Hurts. ~ Jillian O’Dwyer

Someone once told me that feedback is like a coat—you need to try it on to see if it fits.

Days, weeks later I can sit here and tell you that some recent feedback I received was, is, beneficial. That it is helpful. As a person, as an artist, I am better for it.

But it still hurts.

We’ve all been there. Whether you create art, meals or business deals, there is more than just time and energy on the line. You are on the line.

That’s when feedback, no matter how genuinely it is offered up, can simply cut you to the core. It can make you question the direction in which you’ve been going.

I was right there in that place a month ago.

Someone once told me that feedback is like a coat. When you receive it, you need to try it on to see if it fits. I think they’re right, but I would amend the analogy a little bit. You need to try it on to see how it fits.

In my opinion, that is the key to feedback. How it fits you. That’s where the processing of feedback begins.

If the coat—or feedback—fits, processing it is easy. We take the hit to our ego, fix it and move on.

It’s when the coat doesn’t fit that there are challenges.

That’s where the how comes in.

We need to consider the source of the feedback. Why did they give the feedback they did? What place are they coming from that might differ from where you stand?

I’m not saying this is an easy task. So often we can react emotionally when receiving feedback that doesn’t ring true to us.

We discard it like an ill-fitting coat. It is hung back on the rack and left behind for someone else to try on for size.

The emotional approach doesn’t get you anywhere though. It doesn’t move you forward in your business, your personal relationships or your life.

Instead we need to step back to a more objective place and search beyond the superficial words to find a kernel of knowledge and understanding about ourselves.

If there is no way the feedback is true, what is causing them to have this perception about me?

Do they have more knowledge of a particular situation than me? What do I need to learn that I don’t know?

How could what they’re describing be said differently? Maybe it just the words they used that don’t fit?

What are their roles and responsibilities in the situation?

What angle of the situation are they seeing that I am not?

I would love to sit here and tell you that all feedback is given with the intent to help you grow as an individual. That’s not always the case. But, if the person telling you the feedback is genuine, then it is absolutely going to serve you well in the long run to examine ill-fitting words closely.

I’ve been on the receiving end of feedback many times over the years and I’ve come to value it greatly. Oftentimes, I have to work to put aside that punch to the gut in order to process it objectively. But when I do take the time, I emerge better for it.


Jillian O’Dwyer is a ceramic artist whose biggest joy comes from ongoing experiments with her pieces. Something new and often a little bit out there is always in the works. Learn about the inspiration behind her pieces at her blog for follow Jillian on Facebook for fresh, out of the kiln photos of her work and upcoming art shows.


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Ed: Brianna Bemel
Assistant Ed: Amy Cushing

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