All of us creatives can learn from others, but engaging in the critique process can be like navigating a mine field. The explosive damage resulting from an innocent misstep can be as mild as hurt feelings and as severe as the end of a friendship. A source of some of these problems, according to creativity researchers David B. Goldstein and Otto Kroeger, is personality type. In other words, creatives with different Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) profiles critique works with differing approaches and possess differing expectations.
Goldstein and Kroeger provide insight on this phenomenon in Creative You: Using Your Personality Type to Thrive. (I previously reviewed this book and conducted a Q&A with Goldstein.) There are too many permutations of each MBTI to outline them all here, so I’m going to break down my own profile, INTJ:
- Introvert (I): Goldstein and Kroeger say I prefer to provide written comments, and may not say what I’m really thinking if forced to verbalize it. That used to be the case for me, but I’ve spent too many years as an editor in newsrooms and other professional settings; necessity has forced me to learn how to be honest aloud. The authors say if you form a trust with an introvert, she will be straight with you, which is important, because the “worst kinds of criticisms are the ones you aren’t told about–criticisms you can’t correct or defend.”
- Intuitive (N): I am said to be best at providing “an overarching impression of the intangible qualities of your work” but my advice is “often devoid of specific suggestions.” Again, I think my professional experience has forced me to learn to focus on specific examples, but yes, I do tend to take a broader view of a work. The authors say I “appreciate being challenged to think and being taught,” which is absolutely true. I would add that I seek feedback along the lines of what I like to give, so it’s frustrating when a critiquer will tell me how to fix this sentence or that paragraph but not provide a broader perspective; patching holes in a wall is a waste of time if the structure is near collapse.
- Thinker (T): We’re told that this type “is objective, treating everything and everyone equally by comparing performance with a standard.” This is me to a T (pun intended), and I now realize it is where I have caused the most damage at times with my honesty. The opposite to T is F, or Feeler. I fear at times I have been tone-deaf to the emotional state of the person receiving my criticism. I have assumed they would process my feedback in a rational and analytical manner, when in fact one’s creative output is a part of themselves. I have focused–as a writing group member, as an workshop participant, and as a creative writing instructor–on becoming more sensitive to emotional response.
- Judger (J): This is not a particularly flattering description in the book. I am “often initially closed to anything new.” I “tend to sound critical” when I express my views. And I “push for conformity and completeness.” Hmm. It is absolutely true that I tend to sound critical; I have often been told this (to my dismay), and it does not combine well with the T assessment above if the recipient is more of an F and a P (perceiver, the opposite of J). I need to reflect on the notion that I am closed to new things. No one likes to hear that, but if I claim to be open to being taught (see N above) then I should determine if that is an accurate assessment, and if so what I should do about it.
I think it would be very interesting if critique group members all decided to take a Myers-Briggs test, and then read Creative You to learn more about how each participant provided and received criticism. That is, of course, impractical in an ad hoc workshop or short class. But if we learn more about ourselves–how we provide criticism and what we seek–we should be able to be more sensitive to others’ needs and methods of delivery.
How do you tend to convey criticism, and what do you seek (or resist) as a recipient?