Has this ever happened to you: You're getting ready to go out, whether for an evening or just to lunch, and you ask your spouse/friend/mother "how do I look?" and they say "Fine/Great/Fantastic!". Then two hours later you catch your reflection in a store window as you go by and think "Who let me leave the house looking like this?" Then you ask your spouse/friend/mother why they didn't tell you that your shirt was too short or the back of your head looked like you'd just gotten up or your bra didn't fit right and they say "I didn't want to hurt your feelings."
You want someone who will lovingly, but firmly, tell you "Don't leave the house yet. You've got serious VPL (visible panty line) issues."
And that's the kind of person you want for a critique partner.
If I want someone to say "Oh, I love everything you write. You're awesome" (and admit it, sometimes we all want someone to tell us that), I have just the friend to ask. I'm not even sure she reads my work, but she always gives me lots of praise.
But, if I want to improve. If I don't want to go into publication with virtual spinach between my teeth, I need a critique partner who will tell me the things that are uncomfortable.
What's worse---I have to be willing to hear it.
What makes me willing to listen?
First, I need to respect their abilities. It's like playing a sport with someone who's just enough better than you that you have to push yourself harder than you really want to.
Second, I have to believe that they are looking out for my best interest. I have heard some horror stories about people who tear apart their partner's work, mostly just to build themselves up. Yuck.
Third, I have to trust them with my work and my fragile writer's ego. I know I need to hear the hard truth, but I want it delivered with love and respect.
What about the rest of you? What are some of the hard things about being critiqued (whether as a writer or in other areas of your life)?
Any tips for how to find a good critique partner?