As a creative, you pour a little bit of your heart and soul into every project. Hours are spent fussing over the details trying to create something you and your team will be proud of. When the time comes to share your latest version for feedback your stomach is a jumble of nerves. What will everyone think?

Then the feedback starts rolling in and it’s not looking good. Vague statements are unhelpful, negative comments feel personal, and some of the most detailed feedback is about things that weren’t meant to be reviewed. All this makes you feel deflated. What went wrong? Where to go from here?

Here are five approaches to dealing with terrible feedback.

Heading It Off at the Pass

A lot of heartache, time, and frustration can be saved simply by establishing feedback guidelines before the project even begins. This means making sure reviewers know what they are providing feedback on and when.

This includes creating a robust review schedule that let’s everyone know when versions will be delivered and when feedback is due. Ask reviewers to put time aside on those dates so the project isn’t left in feedback purgatory. Be specific and tell them what you’d like reviewed, what doesn’t need their feedright right now, and the best way to get that info to you.

Tip: Go through and makes comments on Wipster before sharing it with reviewers. This can prompt reviewers into areas of attention, and helps them focus their feedback.

Remember: You’re Teammates Not Enemies

You care deeply about the project and have worked hard, so it’s understandable that you feel defensive when receiving critical feedback. While some reviewers can be more blunt than others it’s important to remember that it’s not a personal attack. Ultimately, you want the same thing – a video to be proud of which delights the audience and achieves it’s objectives.

So treat reviewers as your teammates, not your adversaries. Take a step back, be open to critique and take the time to understand what they’re asking for and why. This will give you all the information you need to either make the change or come up with a new solution together.

Tip: Never discount feedback, even when it’s rooted in an emotion or feeling. If they say they don’t like something, there is always a rational behind it.

Ask Questions: Treat Feedback as Dialogue

If you don’t understand the reviewers feedback (or think that it’s a terrible idea) take the opportunity to dig deeper and find out why they want to make that change and the outcome they are trying to achieve. Part of your job is deciphering feedback and coming up with the best creative solution. Treat feedback as dialogue and ask the right questions that get to bottom of the issue.

Asking “how do you want the audience to feel” is a good question to ask, because less technical reviewers will be more intune with the feeling they are trying to invoke and less so the specific techniques (that’s your job!). If you can master this process and show your leadership in coming up with creative solutions your client and team will love you for it.

Tip: Learning from each other and creating a meaningful feedback loop will benefit all involved. This is collaboration in full stride and will enhance your team’s creative ability and problem solving.

Don’t ‘just make the change’

You are hired, in part, because you bring value and ideas to the project. If someone has a truly terrible idea you should challenge it. This doesn’t mean you should be difficult about everything single change you disagree with, but you shouldn’t become a soulless button pusher either.

Pick your battles, be honest and offer alternatives. Don’t be defensive, belittling and stubborn. This is about coming to an agreement together, one that is best for the project. If you end up having to make the change, move on and don’t look back – at least you know you tried.

Tip: Use this opportunity to show how much you care about the success of the project. If they trust that you want the project to succeed, they’ll be much more willing to take your advice and changes on the nose.

Say No to Silence

Silence is collaboration’s arch nemesis and can be one of the more frustrating forms of terrible feedback. It can either lead you to believing your project is on track, only to get a huge list of changes at the 11th hour, OR, it can be working with a team that doesn’t speak up and contribute on a project. Both are damaging to the creative process and negatively affect the end result.

Silence can be caused by two things: One is ‘groupthink’, a situation where people aren’t speaking their minds to avoid confrontation, and the other is when your team or client is not engaged in the feedback process. Both of these can be solved by creating an open environment that encourages people’s feedback and ideas. Make sure stakeholders are aware that they are required to provide feedback and in return openly acknowledge and respect all ideas.

Tip: Keep feedback online (and out of silos) using collaborative tools – this keeps everyone on the same page and makes it easy to monitor and respond to project activity.

In the end… it’s all about communication.

Terrible feedback is often the result of poor communication, which can include comments that are adversarial in nature, have unclear expectations, and/or offer little to no constructive dialogue. Successful feedback and collaboration is all about people working together and communicating effectively.

We now have the tools to really elevate the review process so it’s up to us as creative professionals to set the project up for success and make sure we are getting the best out of our team.

We’d love to know any tips you have for dealing with terrible feedback? Let us know in the comments below.