I’m lousy at giving feedback (not so super at receiving feedback either). In my desire to never, under any circumstances, make someone else feel badly, I often avoid saying anything whatsoever (remember that old saw: “If you can’t say anything nice…etc.”?) Even though I know constructive criticism is a thing (a good thing), I infinitely prefer coming up with multiple superlatives to describe whatever I’m looking at/hearing/reading.
My hubby and some of our kids are in jobs where giving feedback in terms of hiring/firing/performance reviews is an important part of the position. Steve needs, from time to time, to tell an actor that they are missing the mark. Chef Patrick needs to let cooks know that walking out mid-shift is actually unacceptable behavior. Rose and Julie frequently need to advise support staff when they aren’t pulling their weight at work. My feedback-giving family members all seem able to handle it without a lot of torturous soul-searching, quite unlike their wife/mother.
So naturally I have just joined an online comedy writing sprint group, where feedback is the main point. Oh, that and speed: the six of us are supposed to share five pitches and one completed draft of a humor piece every week. And offer detailed feedback on everyone else’s pieces.
The most prolific among us (NOT me) posted a draft of a very funny parody of a Sondheim song she’d tossed off and asked for help finding a title and other feedback. While I have four other significant writing assignments to work on today, including prep for the two classes I’m teaching beginning next week, I spent a good 20 minutes thinking of possible titles for someone else’s piece. As soon as I sit “send” another group member wrote “I don’t know the song.” The writer immediately responded, “That’s what I was afraid of. I won’t continue with the piece.” It was the perfect example of someone identifying a core issue, and someone else wasting her time (I’ll let you guess which one I was).
I struggle as well with things like posting reviews of books, restaurants, plumbers and the like. If I’m satisfied, then I see no reason to repeat the same raves thousands of others have shared. If I’m unhappy, I tend to blame myself (how can I expect a real page-turner, excellent service, an unclogged drain, when I would be so inept doing any of those things? Plus they were no doubt just having a bad day!) and not post anything at all.
I just got a message from one of my former students at church, asking if I could be a job reference. I said “Of course!” as I always do, ready to blab about what an amazing neurosurgeon/youth ministry worker/bartender they would make. It dawned on me that perhaps some feedback might be really valuable, and possibly save this young person from launching into the wrong career.
Yes! I’ll do that! Right after I come up with many more titles for that discarded humor piece!