Saturday, June 11, 2011

Giving feedback shouldn't be that hard

I'm working on the CFDA awards red (actually, it was purple) carpet post for you and I expect to be finished on Monday.

On Friday mornings I'd been going to a support group at the local cancer support centre.that focused on developing inner peace and ways to relax. In the group, we did some meditation and talked about different approaches that could help us achieve inner peace. I really enjoyed the content of each session as I feel like I've got a lot to learn and I can definitely use more relaxation and inner peace.

What I didn't enjoy was being asked to fill out the evaluation form each week. The form they use has one yes-or-no question and six or eight open-ended questions. It takes a long time to fill out and since each week was a continuation of the week before (it wasn't supposed to be this way, but that's the way it ended up), filling one out every week instead of at the end felt like a waste of time.

So yesterday we rebelled. We refused to fill out the form and proposed that we give oral feedback as a group instead. Our proposal was accepted and after the session ended, someone came up to write down our feedback.

It would have been easier to fill out the form.

You see, before writing down each of our points, the person tried to explain why the program committee's chose to do what they did. She was both justifying their choices and defending them against our feedback. I found this extremely frustrating. First, she isn't on the program committee and so she could only give her opinions - not facts - about their decisions. Second, we weren't there to understand why the program committee chose to do what it did; we were there to give the feedback we were asked to give. Third, in spending her time thinking up justifications for the center's choices and defending against our feedback, she wasn't actually listening to what we were saying.

I ended up having to ask her to please stop justifying and defending the Centre's actions and to please just listen to and write down what we were saying. There was more to it than that, of course. I sid something about us appreciating her taking the time to meet with us and how I understood that it's hard to listen to constructive feedback. The main message of "please just write down our feedback like you said you would" was still there.

Afterwards I found out that others had been feeling the same way and were happy that I spoke up. I do understand that some people have a hard time listening to constructive feedback. Even so, if someone agrees to listen to our feedback, I expect them to actually listen to it. I know, how crazy is that?

I hope that some good comes out of our feedback and suggestions to make this experience worthwhile.

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