Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Feedback is a funny thing. Officially, we are all meant to welcome it with open arms. And there are times when it is truly fantastic. Like, when you show your friend the layout for your new kitchen, and she offers that by opening the fridge the other way, you get another cabinet! That's a huge win. But, let's face it, most of the time "feedback" is a term laced with trepidation.

As the unwelcomed recipient of feedback later today (the other show is hanging perilously over my head for the next hour and a half), I thought I'd think through why this bothers me so much. Let us analyze:

Type of Feedback
There's good feedback and bad feedback. People call it "constructive criticism" when advice is tacked to opinion. But the truth is, what you want is:

a) an isolation of an issue ...
b) .. which is repairable...
c) ... with or without some ideas towards a solution that are implementable

Telling me I'm short isn't going to help me. Telling me I say "um" alot is like telling me "smoking kills." If I'm a chain smoker, it's going to take a lot to meet the repairable condition. Telling me my pants are too big is great, particularly if I have other pants at home (which I do. And they are).  

The feedback I'm about to receive is "personality" feedback. Like "you're too eager" or "you're too opinionated." I'll let you know what it is, but net net, it might be an issue, I'd be damned if it were immediately repairable, and I suspect all the solutions I might get to fix it will not match my personality. (Practice being less eager in front of a mirror!)

Conditions of Feedback
If the feedback is requested, it's fantastic. Particularly, if it is genuinely requested, and not simply a fishing expedition for compliments. If the feedback is unrequested, it can still be good, provided it is:

a) Done as privately as possible (no one likes a public airing of faults)
b) Done at time when the receiver is prepared to hear it, emotionally and functionally
c) Not lengthy. People need to leave, internalize, assess. 
d) Not requiring of immediate assent.

The final one is key. You can't expect someone to necessarily agree immediately with your feedback. Give people time to think! Particularly if, net net, it is no skin off your nose (to use the antiquated expression ) if they take it or leave it. 

Frankly, the timing on this feedback couldn't be better, inasmuch as I don't much care, it's end of day, and no one else will be around. As long as it is brief. Prolonged feedback sessions are painful. But, I know he's going to demand assent - and I find it particularly painful to be forced to vocally agree with an assessment of myself which I disagree with. I am pretty sure that's a brainwashing technique: "Say you're a traitor." over and over. It's just not fair. 

Maybe I'll try not to agree. It's just hard.

Source of Feedback
The source of the feedback is critical to how you evaluate it. If it is someone you trust offering feedback in a domain they know, they get extra points. 

If it is someone you don't particularly like or respect (or trust) in a domain where they haven't got expertise, then you're seriously in bad shape. It's worse when said person doesn't know that they fall into that category. The distinction is between the comment "I know nothing about cheesemaking, but to me, this tastes a bit sharp" and "I love cheese but this one tastes bad." 

So, needless to say, I think I'm getting personality feedback from someone whose character I don't particularly like, and whose judgment of other characters I've found to be .. flawed. 

All of this nets out, I think, to rationalizing my dislike of this particular type of feedback, but the potential delusion that feedback in general doesn't bother me. But, it might be a delusion. 

Thoughts? I really could use some input here. 

And I promise to post my feedback later today/tomorrow. Who knows. I hear I'm brash. 

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