Imagine a spectrum. On one end is Power. On the other Vulnerability. Giving a critique sits squarely in Power. You are the one in charge. The judge. The jury. Court officer. Clerk . . . the whole dang courthouse.
Receiving a critique huddles on the Vulnerability end of the scale. Your work is found worthy . . . or not. You may not speak. You may not defend. Just take it in the chin. No matter how harshly things go.
Sheesh. Just thinking so starkly about the power differential at play in critiquing makes my heart go pitter-patter. And not in a good way.
So let’s do better. Let’s think less linearly about critiquing. Consider the Yin-Yang symbol: black with a spot of white on one side. White with a spot of black on the other.
In this model, Power is in the white half of the symbol: the more Yang (active) aspect. Giving a critique still wields Power. But now that power is softened by a connection the critiquee’s (and our own) vulnerability. We shape our feedback with the knowledge of our power to help or to harm.
In the black half of the symbol is Vulnerability. Giving a critique still embodies the Yin aspect of receptivity. But now, instead of our Vulnerability hung out to dry all on its own, our Vulnerability has a protector. A fierce center of badassery that can and will energetically bare its teeth and growl if things get too dicey.
Phew. Now the pitter and the patter are calming inside me. Why? Instead of Power versus Vulnerability we have Compassionate Power versus Tough Vulnerability. I like those odds so much better. How about you?
Onward in kindness,
Christine Carron, The Critique MD