“It does support the idea!” my classmate shot at our guest Critic. His head cocked, brow twisted.
My attention, which had started to drift toward sleep and the warmth of my green tea, was ripped right back to the moment. I was caught mid-breath, my chest tightened, the room froze. I was acutely aware that the rest of the audience sat on the same edge, together all watching this final studio crit hanging with the potential to unravel.
“As I have just explained, I am not convinced that it does. Consider giving it some further thought.” The Critic responded calmly, as he remained relaxed in his chair. His demeanor gave the impression he had ample practice with loose tempers.
“I have thought about it. You’re just not listening to me!” My classmate’s voice had become unstable. It shook as he struggled to keep a lid on his anger. His face grew red as the resulting pressure boiled up inside of him.
“Oookay,” the Critic chuckled as he tossed his hands up into a false surrender. His words seemed to admit defeat, but his body language indicated the admission was simply for show. He wasn’t going to sit there and argue anymore. The discussion was no longer worth his time.
The mid-crit temper tantrum was something I had witnessed on occasion. When it did happen, there was always one resulting lesson that I found to be clear: It is better to be open to discussing areas that could use improvement, rather than arguing that there are none at all.
The following points are intended to encourage you to keep your cool through frustrating crit moments:
One. Don’t forget those famous words by Aristotle: “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” Whether you’re a student, or a seasoned professional, this statement is true. Modesty will make criticism an easier pill to swallow.
Two. Any crit is an opportunity to practice letting go and listening to the perspectives of others. The criticism you receive in school will prepare you for the criticism you will receive in the “real” world. Practice getting a hold of your temper now before your outburst has the potential to be even more public.
Three. Prior to a crit, self-critique your work. Find areas you feel could have been improved, while ensuring that you stay in a positive frame of mind. Completing this self-assessment will be great tool for improvement in your next project, while also preparing you for any feedback you might receive in your crit.
Four. Consider visualization as a technique to practice positive reactions. Set aside a couple of minutes every day just to visualize your positive reactions to negative feedback. If you complete step three above, you could consider visualizing your positive reactions to those specific areas you pin-pointed for improvement. Concentrate on portraying yourself as the controlled professional you know you are!
Five. Have friends help you practice your response to negative feedback. Present your work to someone and ask them to provide you with criticism. This criticism should be constructive, but it may also aim to be a little edgy (which is often the case of Critics). Respond to the criticism with a focus on maintaining professionalism.
The question is not: will there be criticism? The question is: how will I handle the inevitable criticism? I hope the above five points will help you to keep your cool and come across as the professional you are. This is just one part of ten strategies for successful architecture school presentations.
Do you have any crazy stories of yourself or someone you know losing their cool during a crit? Do you have any strategies for coping you’d like to share? Comment below or e-mail me at email@example.com.