Tell people what you want

People won’t know what you need unless you tell them. Pretty simple but it’s amazing how often we expect our co-workers, teammates, friends, and significant other to intuit our needs. And then, to make matters worse, we get frustrated because they don’t understand what we expect of them. If you haven’t told someone what you want and they fail to deliver it’s your own darn fault.

Sure, they are exceptions. You shouldn’t have to tell someone not to kill, steal or lie. But I’m going to assume folks with those tendencies have already been excised from your life. Lets focus on the people you want to spend time with.

If you haven't taken the time to express your values or desires and someone fails to deliver it’s unfair to hold them accountable. That said, recurring disappointment needs to be addressed. It's fair to assume that you shouldn’t have to tell them twice. 

Opinions are great, but don’t confuse them with facts.

I love working with people who can express their opinion but when a person presents their opinion as fact they’ve taken a turn down a frustrating path. If someone does this, call them on it. Ask if that's an opinion or fact. Opinions need to be flagged as such or they're a distraction for your team. They make people with opposing opinions dig in their heels for a war that can't be won without someone losing face.

Early in my career someone with more experience than myself called bullshit when I presented a ‘fact’ in a large meeting. We were working on a story-based game and I was telling the team how they had it all wrong when the savvy manager asked me how they could do it better. I knew a good story when I saw one but I had never written one. I knew nothing of the craft. Probably 30 people saw me learn a painful lesson.

Share your opinions and be prepared to acknowledge them as such or back them up quantitatively.

You don’t know what you’re making

You’ve planned your project meticulously and know everything that needs to happen from the moment you begin working until the moment you dust your hands and step away from your completed creation. Every detail has been accounted for and all that remains is the labor. Guess what. You still don't know what you’re making.

Sometimes the thing you want to make is different than what your thing wants to be. Give yourself room to explore and let your project develop through the process of creation. What is the project is telling you? Collect feedback while you work and let it inform your decisions. Don't be a slave to feedback and observation but don't resist them, either.

People will view, use, read, hear and taste your creation differently than you. Their experience will be different than your own. You can’t control everything and that’s fine, let yourself be surprised.

Tell people what they’re doing well

It’s no surprise that crit sessions, or critiques, are stressful. Everything about them, from the name on down, is designed to expose all of the things the artist/designer is doing wrong or what could be done better. An artist spends a day, a week, a month or longer developing an idea and it culminates in a session devoted to exposing their weaknesses. That sucks. Here are a couple things that will mitigate the stress.

As the artist, collect feedback consistently while you’re working so you aren’t thrown any curveballs on the day of the critique. Do self-critique, use your friends and colleagues for gut-checks while you're working and strive to anticipate feedback.

As a critic, tell the artist what could be made better but also tell them everything they did well. Be very clear about this. The best outcome of a critique is an artist who can identify weaknesses but can also replicate success.