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Sometimes it is difficult to hear other people respond to your work, even if they have the best of intentions. Here are some tips that might help you react to other people’s critiques in a positive way:

  • Remember that your writing group is trying to help you become a better writer. Anything the group members say about your work is designed to help you make it stronger, more readable, and more effective.
  • Put yourself in the critic’s shoes. Remember when you’ve struggled to respond to someone else’s work without hurting their feelings or being “too nice.” Understand that this process is sometimes hard for both the reader and the writer.
  • Keep in mind that every reader is different. What one reader finds confusing, another might find crystal clear. It is ultimately your writing, and you will have to decide which bits of feedback to act upon and which to ignore.
  • Try not to be defensive. It’s easy to think, “What do they know?” or “They just didn’t get it,” but keep in mind that while one reader’s response may be the result of that reader’s own misunderstanding, if several readers agree that a section is confusing or implies something you didn’t intend, the problem probably lies with the writing and not with the readers.
  • Remember that a criticism of one piece of writing is not an indictment of you as a writer or scholar more generally, nor is it a critique of your worth as a person. It is simply a response to words that you wrote on one occasion.
  • Listen to praise with the same intensity that you listen to criticism. Often, writers can obsess over critical comments and fail to hear all of the good things said about their writing. We can be our own worst critics and harshest detractors. Shut off that filter that says, “They don’t really mean that,” and accept sincere praise at face value.
  • Keep track of the kinds of feedback that you receive again and again. Do readers often suggest changes in organization? Do your conclusions usually seem to need work? Do people frequently tell you that they don’t understand words that you use? Do readers praise your clarity? Do they regularly tell you that your introductions are interesting? Use these observations to identify patterns of problems and strengths in your writing.

This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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