The Art of Constructive Criticism: Lessons from a Creative Agency’s Playbook

How can we give feedback without hurting someone’s feelings? I check with the best web design company near me to see how they handle feedback. Anyone who is in a creative business is receiving and giving feedback to colleagues constantly. How do we give honest feedback without hurting feelings or having people shut down? That is the crux of the issue and the topic of this informative article. We will reveal a magic phrase at the end of this article that will solve this dilemma!

Why is giving feedback difficult?

Why does giving feedback often seem to be such a difficult process? Because the act of giving suggestions for change implies that there is a flaw in the creation, while the creator might think that it is a finished masterpiece.  

You can drive fast on any road to creativity in an atmosphere and culture infused with collaboration and honest, timely feedback. However, often our creative journey is stopped or detoured by a significant roadblock that slows creative traffic to a crawl: the ego. When it comes to giving and receiving feedback within a group, personal ego can be a formidable obstacle. It can lead to defensiveness, resistance, and ultimately stifle creativity. 

Ideally, in your business there has been a culture created where mistakes are seen as an opportunity to learn and improve, and everyone works hard on individually and collectively creating a growth mindset, and actually look forward to feedback.  In case your company’s culture isn’t there yet, in this article, we will discuss several ways to get around this roadblock and keep the creative congestion and road rage to a minimum.  In a pinch, even if you don’t remember or implement any other idea in this article, check out the “The Magic Phrase” technique for giving feedback. 

Understanding the Role of Ego

It is human nature that, rather than be open to new ideas or feedback, we spend most of our time defending our original thinking, and ignoring or even getting defensive over suggestions for changing or improving our original idea. How do you get past our natural defensiveness of the ego?

“We spend most of our time defending our original thinking”

Ego, often seen as a person’s sense of self-importance or self-esteem, plays a complex role in group creativity. On one hand, it can be a driving force, motivating individuals to contribute their best ideas and insights. On the other hand, it can also become a stumbling block when individuals become overly invested in their own ideas and resist feedback that challenges their self-concept. Why is that?  According to the best web design company near me, here are some common reasons why ego rears its ugly head:

  1. Fear of Failure: 

Ego is closely tied to our fear of failure. When we receive feedback that points out flaws or suggests improvements, it can trigger a defensive response as we perceive it as an attack on our competence or worth. This fear can prevent us from taking risks and experimenting with new ideas.

  1. Attachment to Ideas: 

We often become emotionally attached to our ideas, viewing them as extensions of ourselves. When others criticize or reject these ideas, it can feel like a personal rejection, leading to defensiveness and resistance. It’s not the idea that is flawed, somehow I am flawed.

  1. Confirmation Bias:

Ego can also lead to confirmation bias, where we seek out feedback that aligns with our preconceived notions and ignore or dismiss feedback that challenges our beliefs. This can stifle creativity.

  1. Competitiveness: 

Ego can foster a competitive mindset where individuals prioritize their own ideas over others. This competition can lead to a lack of collaboration and a reluctance to share credit.

How to Accept Feedback like the best Web design company near me

To harness the full creative potential of a group, it’s essential to navigate around or at least mitigate the impact of ego. Here are several strategies for doing so:

  1. Cultivate a Growth Mindset:

Encourage a culture of continuous learning and improvement. Emphasize that feedback is not a judgement of one’s abilities but an opportunity for growth and development. A growth mindset reduces the fear of failure and encourages individuals to see feedback as a valuable resource and opportunity for personal growth.

  1. Focus on the Idea, Not the Person: 

There are many ideas for giving feedback . For example, shift the emphasis from critiquing the individual to critiquing the idea. Also, using constructive language and in general fostering a collaborative culture where feedback is ok. This is done by the leader modeling enthusiasm for feedback by getting excited and celebrating mistakes because of what we can learn from them. The leader doesn’t get defensive when getting  feedback, she just  accepts it with a “Thank you”, and moves on.

Ego can be both a driving force and a hindrance to group creativity. While it can motivate individuals to contribute their best ideas, it can also lead to defensiveness, resistance, and a reluctance to collaborate. To unlock the full creative potential of a group, it’s crucial to navigate the challenges posed by ego when giving and receiving feedback.

What does the best Web design company near me use?

Each of those ideas deserves its own chapter in a book. For this article, we are focussing on suggesting you implement a structured feedback process that everyone on the team uses. You need to explain, model, encourage and teach the process to your team.  We call our process The Magic Phrase! Here it is:

I Like, I Like, I Wonder…

1. Start off any suggestion or critique you may have with some positives.  When giving feedback, try to come up with at least two things that you like about the project or idea. If you can’t come up with two things  you like about the idea or product, find some things that you like about the creator.  For example “Jeff, I really like your initiative and your amazing creativity…”  That will work.  

2. Follow up your two “I Like” statements with your feedback/suggestion, but start it off with some soft language. We recommend starting off with the phrase “I wonder…” 

For example, if you said “I think you need to change the color scheme totally. What you have here obviously will clash with the brand”, that would surely get the creator in a defensive position, and instead of listening to your suggestion, they will argue and defend the palette they chose.

Instead, try starting off with an “I wonder” statement. It could sound like this: “I like the energy in this design, and I like the graphics very much. I wonder…what it would look like with the color scheme changed slightly, maybe leaning more toward the brand palette?”

No guarantee that this response won’t trigger a defensive, ego-driven response, but according to the best web design company near me where I learned this phrase, it is surely a lot better than a harsh critique. The Magic Phrase may sound simple, but it is easy enough to remember, and works like, well…magic!


Cultivate a growth mindset, establish psychological safety, focus on ideas rather than individuals, and foster a collaborative culture. This these actions, groups can create an environment where ego-driven barriers are minimized. Additionally, implementing structured feedback processes like The Magic Phrase can further enhance the group’s ability to harness its collective creativity.

Work to create a culture within the group where feedback is seen as a valuable resource for growth and improvement, rather than a threat to one’s ego. When ego is kept in check, group creativity can flourish, leading to innovative solutions and groundbreaking ideas.

Are you ready to discuss your upcoming project?