Don’t Listen to Everything

Super loved this by Ann Friedman. For all of you trying to create change in the world either as entrepreneurs or writers or simply by choosing to be kickass instead of kiss ass, you’ve already discovered haters. In Ann’s quest for understanding haters, she created The Disapproval Matrix, which I found to be so perfect, I just had to share it with you:  Disapproval Matrix by Ann FriedmanThis is one way to separate haterade from productive feedback. Here’s how the quadrants break down:

Critics: These are smart people who know something about your field. They are taking a hard look at your work and are not loving it. You’ll probably want to listen to what they have to say, and make some adjustments to your work based on their thoughtful comments.

Lovers: These people are invested in you and are also giving you negative but rational feedback because they want you to improve. Listen to them, too.

Frenemies: Ooooh, this quadrant is tricky. These people really know how to hurt you, because they know you personally or know your work pretty well. But at the end of the day, their criticism is not actually about your work—it’s about you personally. And they aren’t actually interested in a productive conversation that will result in you becoming better at what you do. They just wanna undermine you. Dishonorable mention goes to The Hater Within, aka the irrational voice inside you that says you suck, which usually falls into this quadrant. Tell all of these fools to sit down and shut up.

Haters: This is your garden-variety, often anonymous troll who wants to tear down everything about you for no rational reason. Folks in this quadrant are easy to write off because they’re counterproductive and you don’t even know them. Ignore! Engaging won’t make you any better at what you do. And then rest easy, because having haters is proof your work is finding a wide audience and is sparking conversation. Own it.



And so for those of you that wonder if I have ever read any of my YouTube comments, the answer is No. I suspect but have not given into temptation to see if my talk has gotten trashed over at YouTube. That’s because I saw what it did to friends who have gone before me.  The people who are (as my friend Brene Brown would say) in the Arena of Life, showing up to fight for what they love… they are worth listening to.

For your own personal mastery, you need to get feedback that is constructively shaping you forward. So, don’t give the wrong people permissions they haven’t earned.  For family, friends, colleagues, or strangers — look at the classification and decide if they have earned the right to criticize, and then decide whether to listen to their point of view.

P.S. So if you happen to see a friend’s video on You Tube, don’t start the conversation about their hard work they are putting out into the world with “those idiots on YouTube…” You are simply not putting your mouth where your heart is.  (And, yes, this happens more than you might imagine and so there is plenty of evidence that this doesn’t bring two people closer together.)

5 Replies

  1. This is assuming the critics don’t leave comments on youtube. Then , where do you find their comments?

    1. Critics can be found using their real name, in every day life. In my case, they’ll find me at conferences, write me emails, trash me on etc. The key is (a) they are qualified to have an opinion, (b) they own it — even in public– so their own reputation is tied to how well they articulate a counter point of view, and (c) they are trying to make the idea better or the field better. Check HBR blog where I first wrote about topic or on the TED Blog. Lots of valid criticism, and well worth a discourse.

  2. Great classification of people in our lives. I would say most dangerous ones are Frenemies. In my experience, they come in shape of your friends, classmates, coworkers, neighbors – people you know and meet regularly. This quadrant is disguised under a friendly cover and is hard to spot. Also most important are critics because they provide you feedback that your brain accepts without much prejudice. So I wish for “critics” in my life and wisdom to spot “frenemies”.

    1. Astute.

      One “friend” lied to me regularly, to the point of telling me a story that I was in and telling me an entirely distorted picture of what went down. And while I used to want to fix the situation or stay loyal to the “friendship” what I finally learned is that I just didn’t have that kind of energy. Having grown up as I did, I’ve been fucked with enough. Those kind of people don’t need to be “friends”.

  3. This is a very useful dimensional chart for sorting an audience, particularly as
    I remind myself to not align “positive” with “rational” too casually. Some who love me with few conditions, and others who give me high-quality, constructive criticism can give “positive” support for my growth as an artist. Their support can be “positive” even if their rational comments on any one day convey negative criticism of a particular piece of my work. So I recognize a positive value in rational comments. And the chart suggests irrational commentary from my audience is less constructive, less useful, and less “positive” for my growth. Thus, a “negative” value becomes aligned with “irrational.” But, what of the irrational audience lavishing praise? And what about emotion?
    Does my audience member who holds me in an emotional space, or whose comments for me spawn from an emotional spark, or whose delivery is very emotional, give me comments that are less constructive and less useful? What if I conflate “more emotional” with “irrational,” for the reason that I often experience these characteristic together in persons who are most vexing to me? If I say “irrational” comments are “negative”, then are not “more emotional” comments also “negative”? If I tie “positive/rational” to the idea that “less emotional is positive for my growth,” then should not this be measured in terms of emotional posture of my audience rather than the emotionality of expression in the comments?
    If I transform “irrational” to “more emotional,” though, might I miss boxes in which special members of my audience sit? Cannot we imagine persons who give a fuck about us and want to see us succeed and thrive, and they may do so passionately and perhaps even from an irrational space? Actually, cannot each of the quadrants in the chart be associated with strong emotional intensity? How should I apply the dimension of “emotion”, and can it mislead by misalignments with “rationality”?
    What if NYT editorial critic, Fred, is just off the deep-end, emotionally in love with me, with his columns actually not giving a rational measure of my work? Although it feels very positive, is his praise constructive for my growth? We have said that if Fred is objectively negative, rational and without emotion, then it’s constructive criticism and “positive” for my growth; but, if skewered by emotion, this same expert critic lavishing praise deserves to be discounted. And, as Fred becomes more emotional, his comments should be steadily discounted further?
    What of my view of myself? My own negative self-criticism, if mired in emotion and irrational, well deserves discounting, but can I allow that I might have dispassionate, rational self-reflection? Can my self-critique ever be rational? Does the chart miss the audience Narcissus, too? Lavish praise heaped upon myself without rational basis? Self-affirmations — haven’t these been shown to work? How constructive? How “positive” for my growth, even as it feels so? Must I remove emotion from my self-critique for it to be constructive for my growth as an artist?

Leave a reply

Leave a Reply