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7 Tips for Musicians to Handle Criticism


Dealing with criticism can be challenging for anyone, let alone musicians. No, I’m not saying that musicians’ egos are stronger than those of the rest, but when someone doesn’t like your music, it strikes you right in the soul, and you wonder, how can they not? You take it personally and might even become anxious about writing music in the future.

Even when other people try to influence and discourage you from pursuing your passion, there are many ways in which you can gain self-confidence again. There’s no secret recipe for improving self-esteem, just a practical how-to-deal-with-it-one-sentence manual: don’t stress too much about it!

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If you can see criticism as a way to help you climb the success ladder rather than a means of discouragement and self-pity, you will definitely evolve, whatever it is that you’re pursuing. Here are some helpful tips that will change your perspective on criticism!

1. Know the Difference

There is a big difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism. The important thing is to be able to distinguish between the two. Then, if you’re the victim of the latter, you will not let yourself be affected by it. But, how can you tell the difference? What are some critical characteristics of the two?

For starters, destructive criticism will present no valid points. The critique will be opposed to your work, but they will not present compelling reasons for why they chose to criticize it. Most of their arguments will be based on self-conceptions, such as how that person perceives the world. They will use inductive reasoning (getting from specific – their preferences, to the general – other people’s preferences) to present arguments.

On the other hand, constructive criticism presents valid reasons and an in-depth analysis of your work. The critique will always be able to answer your why questions. It is constructive in that it is detailed, not superficial, and gives you a feeling of positivity once you correct the issues that were being addressed.

2. Listen Before You React

Usually, people’s first reaction to criticism is denial. They don’t want to believe that what they hear might be true, so they deny that there can be room for improvement. This is a toxic means of dealing with criticism.

When you find yourself denying facts without checking if they could be right, you are in the denial phase. Get out of it by listening to other people and giving them a chance to speak out, even if they engage in destructive criticism (yes, you heard it right!).

“But……Why would I listen to destructive criticism?” some might wonder. Because even if they’re not right, you might find some of their suggestions useful! And since you know it’s not constructive, what harm could it do anyway?

3. Inhale, Exhale

If you realize that you’re in the denial phase, now it’s time to act. Start breathing slowly and deeply. Relax your body and mind and accept that you could indeed be wrong, and they might be right. Do whichever you need to calm down and accept the present situation. After you’ve reached a Zen attitude, listen calmly to their opinion and mentally highlight the ideas that stand out.

4. Don’t Take Criticism Personally

Many people take criticism personally, when in fact, they could use this valuable tool. Avoid making it personally by becoming conscious of your value and knowing where you stand career-wise. If, for instance, you’re a novice, it is normal for other people to comment on your work and give their genuine opinions.

“Would you rather be lied to and sell no music in the long-term, or be criticized short-term and conquer the music industry? In the end, it’s all about how you choose to look at things,” writes Christine Humphrey, CEO at Essay on Time and Certified Life Coach.

Some quick extra advice:

  • Don’t attack the person criticizing you, attack their ideas!
  • Don’t offer feedback to feedback
  • Be calm when responding, and ask why as many times as you need to
  • Question their truth!
  • Understand that your self-esteem will not improve as people praise your accomplishments; try other ways to work on your confidence if you feel that you need it.

5. Listen Only When in the Mood

The Golden Rule: never listen to criticism when you are not in the mood. If you can’t deal with it right now (because you have so many other things going on), unveil the truth to the critique. Be respectful and kind, but sincere and straightforward.

For instance, you could say something like, “I am very pre-occupied with other things right now, and I would not be able to take in your advice even if I wanted to. Let’s schedule a meeting for another time because I would really like to hear what you have to say.”

6. Be Blunt

If you are in the mood, listen calmly and reply correspondingly. You must make yourself clear and draw boundaries. For them to understand your work, they must know where you stand and how you perceive the world.

So, if they don’t know you at all, tell them how you feel and what past actions led to this musical masterpiece. Create the circumstances and give them a brief description of your background. Be kind when explaining your opinion and listen to their response carefully.

7. Draw the Line

Some critiques are rude and very impolite, and there is no need for you to listen to those opinions. Either ignore them or be blunt and specific. Tell them why their tone/gestures/attitude bothers you.

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They must respect you, even when they criticize you. You could say something like, “I would be glad to hear your opinion, but for me to do that, you must approach me with the necessary respect.” If, after this conversation, they continue to act unpleasantly, just ignore them. They’ll know why.

Wrapping Up

Getting used to constructive criticism can be tough for anyone, but if you choose the correct attitude, pick the right mindset, and are open-minded enough to listen calmly, you will nevertheless increase your knowledge and excel in your field. Keep your head up, you got this!

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