Wikipedia has added a new feature at the bottom of their articles. It's called the Article Feedback Tool. It allows someone to offer their opinion about the person who has offered their opinion. (Hope I didn't lose you.) With Wikipedia the articles are created by volunteers, some of whom are really top-notch experts, but not all. Since a Wiki allows just about anyone to weigh in, it is hard to know sometimes whether the source is valid, or off their rocker. So at the bottom, readers can now rate the submission according to four categories:
I think this might be a helpful grid by which to evaluate your critics, or even the occasional, "Pastor, I don't mean to be critical, but..."
1. Ask yourself, "Is this person trustworthy?" If you don't trust them, then don't trust their feedback. Give greater weight to the opinions of those you trust, while being careful that you don't miss the "grain of truth" that sometimes is delivered by a poor messenger.
2. Ask, "Is their criticism complete?" Are they missing important elements, or points of view? If so, you must adjust your response accordingly. I often find that sheep do not share the same perspective as the shepherd. Let them know what you see from where you stand.
3. Ask, "Is this objective feedback?" Sometimes people reason from their emotions, and lose all objectivity. Sometimes people have an axe to grind, or a pet issue over which they obsess. If so, take this into consideration.
4. Ask, "Is this feedback well-written?" Probably not the most salient of the four questions, but worth asking from a couple standpoints. If they have a valid point, but have brought something up in a poor manner, you don't want to miss the point just because their form was bad. On the other hand, you might want to kick it back to them for more work. Say, "Can you rephrase that or say it another way?" or "Can you send that to me again, but this time break out your concerns a little better for me."
Feedback is valuable, but more so when it comes from a credible source.