Using Feedback Well
In the previous post, both the defensive writer and the one who accepts all feedback are not doing themselves any favors.
Dealing well with feedback is a three stage process.
First of all, when you are receiving feedback, just listen. Take notes if useful but the key thing is to listen. Sheila has this stage down pat. For the Freds in the world, listening is not simply keeping quiet or running counter arguments in your head until the others stop talking. This is not listening—that’s just not putting your hands over your ears.
Try to take in what’s being said. And say nothing. I repeat this for Fred. Say nothing.
The time to speak is when the feedback is finished. But (Fred) not to jump into the defenses you’ve been storing up. Nor (Sheila) the time to thank everyone and vow to make all the changes suggested.
You want to make sure you understand the feedback, whether or not you agree with it. Possible questions:
- You said you couldn’t understand Alfonso’s motivation. So the paragraph on page 5 wasn’t enough? What else would be needed?
- One of you thought the flashback was too long. Does everybody feel that way?
- Patty thought that Melissa needed to be more wild and crazy while Donald wanted Melissa more introspective. Could you tell me how each of you came to your conclusion?
This is a period of clarification, not defense of the best laid plans of mice and men.
Decide on your own
After the feedback session, and in a quiet time with a glass of wine, go over each comment. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Review each comment seriously, making sure you understand the point. If there’s a split opinion, read over why each person felt the way they did and choose the one which makes the most sense to you or ignore both suggestions if you don’t feel they fit.
- What to do with consensus opinions. If there was general agreement on a point, this is important information. But it still doesn’t mean you automatically make that change. Consider whether this change is taking the piece in the direction you want to go. Will it help or take you off course? If the latter, then even a unanimous view may not be enough to make you change it.
- This is your work not a composite effort and only you can decide what changes are improvements. If the suggestion helps the piece, great. If it doesn’t, then it’s okay not to take it.
Balancing belief in self with listening to feedback
You are after a Sheila-Fred amalgam. Be Sheila in the feedback session itself, with the addition of ensuring you understand the reasoning behind the comments. But when you are later considering what to change, be a little more Fred (although don’t take it too far). You should take the piece in the direction you feel is right. Hold onto that when you consider what changes you will make.
The next post will help you make the decisions on which piece of feedback you’ll accept and which you will not.