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How Do You Handle Criticism?

Criticism, critique, opinion, junk that folks have to say…this is the world we live in today. My friend Kwesi (his real name) says that because of technology, everyone and ANYone can publish, even if it’s not necessary that they do. News travels in nanoseconds in this century, and opinion goes even further. Opinion and its half-brother, Gossip, have always been quicker to reach their intended target than real news. People are just happier to say what they think about a matter than discuss the matter in itself.

As a blogger, I generally have to contend with how people think about what I write, from style to subject matter. As a rule, I like people, so I am pretty accessible. Some of my most recent friendships have been a result of people following a thread on my blog, predicting my whereabouts and making the effort to meet me. The transition from stalker, to acquaintance to friend in my book is usually a quick and easy one. But as I say, those friendships are not made easily. Because people know so much about ME and judge me based on what I write – which is often personal – they truly believe they have to right to comment and share their personal opinion on my craft.

And you know what? They are right. If I made it public, I made it open to public opinion.

Let’s just be clear: I’m not always open to what people have to say about my craft. There have been times when people have been downright mean, and I’ve had to have my brother chase them off with his own special brand of Troll Repellant. Other times folks have been more tactful in telling me they didn’t appreciate the way I wrote this or expressed my opinion about that. I had one woman invite me to dinner only to tell me that she had serious reservations about how often (and cruelly) I wrote about Douche Bag. She was paying for dinner, so I didn’t tell her off then, but I fumed all the way home.

But then I paused and thought: Perhaps she was right? Perhaps the eternal bashing of my baby daddy was not really good for me, and should my daughter chance upon it in the future, maybe it wouldn’t be good for her either? I mulled over her words – her opinion – let them jostle for dominance over my indignation and my right to write whatever the hell I wanted, and eventually let them win. I adapted. And now I only write about Douche Bag when he does something extremely peculiar that I just HAVE to share with the MOM Squad.

When you’re an artist, comedian, blogger or social commentator, you can’t predict how your words are going to affect the subject of your discourse. Some of us don’t even care how it affects the individual! But it is always important to remember that at the other end of your keyboard or your microphone, there is another person with real feelings that need to be acknowledged, just as you’d want your own feelings done.

One of the best examples I’ve seen of how to handle “negative” criticism was on Chappelle’s Show. In one of the earlier seasons in a skit called Negrodamous, played by Paul Mooney cracked a joke saying “White people love Wayne Brady because he makes Bryant Gumbel look like Malcom X.”

We laughed, and Dave probably forgot about it…until Wayne called. He wasn’t cool about it, but he was a good sport. What happened next made for television history and became a pop culture phenomenon. Yes, I’m talking about the Training Day parody, with the tagline “Black actors need to stick together.”

It was a valuable lesson for me. In the face of offence, whether it was intended or not, you always have the choice to turn it around if you sit down with the offender and reason things out. It’s hard, but with a little magic, you can actually turn piss into lemonade.

It is never my intention to hurt anyone on this blog (Okay. That’s a lie. There are days when my sole intent is to destroy the very heart of some of my victims, but that’s not usually the case.), so when I do, I am quick to make amends. Mind of Malaka is just that: ideas and thoughts knocking in my head that I write about. My thoughts are not law, and my blog is not the Wall Street Journal. It’s just a place where I make my honest opinions known.

So to the person I have affected recently with my thoughts, if you’re reading, I’d like to take an opportunity to turn pee pee into a sugary delight…if you’re open. You know where to find me.

Black actors need to stick together.


How do you personally handle criticism? Has there been an instance when you wished you’d handled things differently? What have been some of the best ways you’ve seen people handle opinion and attitude? Discuss!!

This article has 8 comments

  1. Nuong

    Not everyone who criticizes is a hater. You see mostly those who show their faces are not always haters. Those you should worry about are the nameless, faceless gutter scum who hide behind anonymous accounts and names and spew no constructive criticism but hate.
    That said, you always have more to learn by being graceful and thoughtful than by lashing back. So many a time, when someone says or writes something about me or something I did, I may hurt but I have made it a policy never to be angered beyond reason.
    I retreat when it hurts too much and I think , then I return , smile, acknowledge and promise to be better.
    En sum? Grace is the winning attitude for me.

    • Malaka

      “The nameless, faceless gutter scum is who you have to worry about”. That is the gospel truth right there! It’s hard when you’re in the creative arts to accept criticism I believe. It’s not like math or science where there is only one right answer until hundred years later somebody comes up with a different theory. Taste is subjective. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

  2. lalaroses

    Please I want somebody to come and criticize me o ..I get really uncomfortable when everyone says my craft is perfect (especially family and friends) and which turns out sometimes they don’t want to tell you the truth so you won’t get hurt.. truth is bitter, I’ll deal with..it can’t be always perfect (not all the time).. there just has to be something I can do to improve and be better. My only competition is myself. So long and short, be open to criticism, you can discern and know which one is said with positive energy and which is not, so be selective also. Tomorrow should always be better than yesterday.

    • Malaka

      “Tomorrow should always be better than yesterday.” Well said!
      You mention something about family not wanting to hurt your feelings by telling you everything is lovely. I had an opposite experience with my family (one in-law in particular). I was crushed by the negative points he was harping on in regards to my book and went to bed weeping that summer. But he was right about everything. It was his delivery that sucked. I forgave him and promised myself never to repeat those mistakes. That’s not a moment I wish to relive with the next book!
      All the best to you two ladies on your projects. 🙂

  3. David S.

    When I blogged, I expressed my opinions and could be extremely harsh and/or snarky about it. When people criticized me in the comment section, I would engage and give as good as I got. I was younger then, and stupider. An older blogger once told me that I should remember that my views and opinions are not my children, that there will always be people that disagree with me and I shouldn’t react like a lioness defending her cubs. Another person told me that my views weren’t always the problem it was my delivery. I ignored both pieces of criticism. If I ever blog again, I won’t back down from expressing my views, but I will take those two pieces of constructive criticism that received and try to be a more mature blogger.

    • Malaka

      And I’m eagerly awaiting the day you come into blogging maturity and bloom! I’ll be such a stalker. You ain’t ready.

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