Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Question of Critique

I've lately had the uncomfortable experience of taking critique like criticism instead of a constructive feedback. I've tried to realise which parts of the critique that have been most difficult to accept, so to get back to how I used to be (which was a girl who jumped on critique as if it was ice cream to be devoured - i.e. I loved it and revelled in it). So far, I've noticed that a certain style of critiquing makes me feel lousy, even if I can guess that the critiquer doesn't mean it the way I interpret the words.

Time for an example. I will for illustrative reasons use an example concerning someone's looks.

"You are so pretty! You're nose is a bit crooked, and you need to brush your teeth. Those clothes are horrid too. But overall you're really pretty!"

I'm not sure what you would think, but to me, this isn't the kind of critique that makes me preen of pride or even feel like doing anything but eating a box of ice cream. As far as I've understood the problem is that the critiquer assumes the person getting the critique understands that everything that isn't mentioned works great. Let's wake up here - they probably don't know that. So, try again.

"You have such stunning eyes, and that good posture makes you look tall and strong. Your smile could give Cameron Diaz a run for her money, I tell you! Have you ever tried those whitening strips, though? It would make it even better. You know, a pair of brown linen trousers would enhance that bum of yours as well."

Look at that. I didn't even need to say "you are really pretty". It's obvious. I think critiquers should take some lessons from writing and use showing instead of telling.

To be fair to my critiquers, I didn't find any example as extreme as the above. Mostly they wrap it up a bit nicer. But this is an example, alright? They're supposed to show it in a clear, unambigous way. So I'm excused.

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