How to Tactfully Handle Criticism

I studied as an artist for several years at Yale, where we had to subject our artwork to the intense weekly criticism of our professors and peers. It was good training for life, as it turned out, because everywhere you go, there will be someone giving you criticism (and there are good and bad ways of handling it.) Also a good personal reminder.
  1. Actually listen.
    Don't immediately start talking over someone giving you notes. They've thought about what they want to say & the fact that they care enough to discuss it with you shouldn't be ignored. Don't speak right away; hear them out.
  2. Consider the note behind the note.
    This is useful in writing and all kinds of art. When someone gives you a note, it may not be specific or necessarily point out the exact problem, but it may cue you into something that isn't working.
  3. Respect that sometimes your art isn't for everyone.
    If someone delivers a particularly harsh criticism, your work just might not be for them. Artists throughout history have been harshly rejected only to find later success. Even The Beatles were rejected by a record company, only to become one of the most successful musical groups of all time.
  4. Don't take it personally.
    Remember that the notes are about your work, not you. It's not personal and not a reflection of your self-worth.
  5. Say thank you.
    It doesn't matter if you thought the criticism came from a malicious place, that it was ill-founded, or it came from someone whose personal taste you don't respect. Say thank you and move on!
  6. Keep working.
    Persistence is a truly underrated quality in artists. If someone gives you a good note, think about how it helps you develop as an artist. Keep making stuff!