"Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things." - Winston Churchill
I used to read these words to myself before reviewing a critique of my work. It put things in perspective, and allowed me to remove my personal feelings from my work - thus, allowing me to see my work objectively, so I can accurately assess whether the critiquer has brought up valid points. After all, I'm a writer, and I want to be the best writer I can be. Therefore, I need to be able to absorb critiques in a constructive way.
That said, there are things that can upset the zen of my objectivity. I call them unhelpful critiques. :) An unhelpful critique is probably different for everyone, but here's what's unhelpful for me:
1) Critiquer laughs or scoffs at any part of my story.
2) Critiquer is patronizing or condescending, or tells me that I'm doing everything wrong without suggestions on how to fix it.
3) Critiquer ignores any questions I have, or areas of focus I have requested.
4) Critiquer wants to change the story or characters based on his/her taste, not based on what is best for the story.
5) Critiquer does not understand the story and, instead of merely stating this, "teaches" me how to write properly.
6) Critiquer offers no positive reinforcement.
If at least one of these elements appears in a critique, I had trouble keeping my objectivity...and I was more inclined to not listen to future suggestions from that particular person. This could be bad, because that critiquer could have great advice - and just a poor way of delivering it.
So, after many deep breaths and walks around the block, I created a new method for receiving criticism. I read through everything once, let all my emotions out during that first read, then set it aside. When I'm sufficiently calm (this could take an hour or a week...depending), I pick it back up and wrench my objectivity back into place. :) I strip the critiquer's personal info from my mind and focus only on the criticism. If it's good, I make a note to incorporate it. If it's bad, then I set it aside with no more emotion than a yawn before bedtime. After all, the critique isn't personal. It's meant to help improve my writing. So why should I let my emotions take over, and my objectivity fall by the way side?
Objectivity is such a wonderful thing. To me, it's like a warm blanket because I know I'm looking at things as they are. Not as I want them to be, or afraid that they might be. It also allows me to see things through other people's perspectives. Say, a reader was confused by a certain passage in my story and went off on a completely wrong tangent in her critique. If I look at it from her perspective, knowing less about the characters and plot than I know, then that confusion could make sense and I can make a note to clear things up. Then, when the story goes back through critique, I can focus on that same reader's reaction. Usually, it's pleasant surprise. And the fact that I listened to her, even in a way she didn't intend, makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. :)
So, what makes a good critique? It's different for different people because we don't all have the same strengths and weaknesses. A good friend of mine is terrible with grammar, but great with plot. I'm good with grammar, but not so good on showing my characters. So when I ask for a critique, these are the things I find most helpful:
1) Critiquer finds holes in my plot.
2) Critiquer notices when characters are acting "out of character."
3) Critiquer points out the things that work well in the story - dialog, strong scene, strong character, good use of all senses, etc.
4) Critiquer tells me his/her reaction at key points in the story. This might include guessing at the story's outcome, pointing out that a certain revelation was predictable/not predictable, or comments on the character's growth (or lack thereof).
5) Critiquer addresses any questions I posed either before or after the story, and avoids the problems I already know about.
6) Critique is phrased in a constructive and encouraging manner.
These kinds of critiques usually come from experienced critiquers. And when I get one, I always make a point of thanking the person for being so professional and thoughtful. After all, we're trying to make this our profession, right? So why not treat our work with the professional respect we know it deserves? :)