Recently, I sent a submission to wac, my online writers group so that it could be critiqued. Five people read and critted it, and there were some conflicting views.
One person thought it was just perfect the way it was, wanted to go back later and find something wrong with it. Another liked it a lot but thought it had some overly long sentences. Another said it was well done but she had a few spots marked where it could be tightened. And still one more thought it was far too formal for what it was suppose to portray.
Confusing to the person who submitted the piece? Absolutely! I mulled over the responses a second time yesterday and ended up with wondering how to change it, which of these helpful people I should try to please. Fortunately, that thought was fleeting as a writer should try to end up feeling pleased with their work and proud to send it out, not change it to meet what someone else likes. We should definitely give strong consideration to revising where need is pointed out, and I usually do so. But in the end, changing something major is my final decision.
The one thought that kept running through my mind was that readers' perception of the very same piece of writing can be different because each one of them is a different personality. All the experiences of a lifetime factor into the way we perceive what we read. And that's OK. We don't want a cookie cutter society, nor do I want a critique group who always crits writing in he same way.
What the writer needs to do is to sort out those different perceptions and decide which ones work for her. If, however, all the critiques either praise or criticize the very same thing, she'd better sit up and pay close attention. Using a critique to make a piece of writing better requires the writer to be objective to their own writing and willing to make changes.
One last thought on perception in readers--remember that all editors don't read with the same perception. They, too, are a variety of different folk. One may perceive your work as top notch while another might toss it in a hurry. Another good reason for sending the work out again if it's rejected.