Post Academic


Work Lessons From Reality TV: Handling Criticism

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on November 11, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionReality television critiques are unnecessarily brutal because many of the judges stake their reputations and make their money off being assholes. But, sometimes, the judges and mentors help contestants see their work clearly. These critiques act as an anti-snowflake tonic and remind contestants that the show isn’t about them or their personalities–it’s about what they can deliver.

Donna Flagg at Psychology Today writes, “By telling someone that he or she is doing something that is not working, you offer a truth and clarity that can help both sides further their understanding, do something about it and move on.”

Don’t gnaw on the past. Reality television proves that a person can take a risk and fail. Even if a person lands on the bottom in one challenge, he or she can go on to with the whole show. A critique is not the end of the world–it might be the beginning of a new idea that is even better than the last one.

Accept that life isn’t fair. Oh, this is so hard, especially for aspiring academics who start out believing grad school is a meritocracy who later discover that pure dumb luck is a big factor in getting a job. As for reality shows, some undeserving people stay on shows for longer than they should because they deliver the kind of drama that keeps audiences tuning in. But reality tv also makes clear that a failure in one challenge is not the end as long as a person is willing to sift through feedback and distinguish what is useful and what isn’t.

Detemination is learning how to handle an insult from Gordon Ramsay. Image of the reality tv chef by Dave Pullig from Wikimedia Commons under a GNU Free Documentation license.

Learn how to sort useful feedback from dick moves. Most people will give you useful feedback, but others are eager to show how witty they can be when they tell you how much you suck. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference, especially if you’re sensitive. A dick-move comment focuses on you as a person. A helpful comment makes clear that you are separate from your product. A flubbed product does not make you a bad person. Tim Gunn is a master of useful feedback. Sometimes he’ll make a dick-move comment because he can’t resist a good zinger, but most of the time he focuses on an outfit and doesn’t make the designer feel stupid for heading in the wrong direction. Tim Gunn is so good at his job that I am currently reading “Gunn’s Golden Rules,” which is a workplace manual in disguise, so much so that I will be summarizing it in just a few weeks.

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2 Responses to 'Work Lessons From Reality TV: Handling Criticism'

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  1. Jane said,

    Caroline, I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy reading your posts. The practical advice you give is really helpful for using in my job. Thank you. Take care. Jane


  2. Gosh! Thank you so much! I am glad you find the advice useful … and I’m also glad that all my TV watching is paying off!

    You take care, too! –Caroline


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