When we get bad advice, there’s usually some obligation to respond in some way, to acknowledge the feedback. No matter how bad the advice is, it’s important to remain professional—and not do something you’ll regret later.
The initial slap-in-the-face sting will fade. Okay, it may not—but the first minute you read something that’s just prima facie all wrong isn’t the best time to jump on it. Give it a few minutes; go have some chocolate if necessary.
If this is an in-person setting, now is a good time to nod. Narrow your eyes a little if you want, but anything more than that is probably a little rude. (The eye narrowing nod can look like either disbelief or sage acceptance.)
Weigh it out
This phrasing comes from Josi Kilpack. She points out that no matter how off-base a comment may seem, there may be a kernel of truth in it. Somewhere. And who knows, maybe—just maybe—they were right after all.
I should add here that fortunately I’ve been a victim of this one, too. My favorite example here is when a critique partner suggested I add a scene near the beginning of the book. I hemmed and hawed over this privately—until the scene started playing out in my mind. It was so entertaining—and just like she said, solved so many problems—that I just had to write it, just to see what it’d look like. (And when I still liked the finished product, I stuck it in there.)
Finally, no matter whether you got a hundred great ideas to revolutionize and revitalize your story—or just got the general idea that this person is clueless—be sure to thank them. This person didn’t have to take time out to read your work and try to help you, albeit unsuccessfully.
Thank them. If possible, tell them how their comments helped you. If that’s not possible (and sometimes it’s just not), still thank them. Sometimes, that’s all you’ll be able to do—while in some settings, it’s appropriate to discuss and clarify feedback (while not arguing), in others, that’s just not appropriate or even possible. So thank them and move on.
What’s your biggest challenge in reacting to feedback?
Photo credit: Neils van Kampenhout