This post is in response to the invitation from Helen Amery to take part in a “Carnival” where different bloggers and thinkers write and post their take on a topic – in this case, feedback. You can find more posts through the #feedbackCarnival hashtag. She posed the following for consideration: Feedback would happen all the time if…..
The first time I remember anyone telling me “feedback is a gift”, I was mercilessly cynical. A gift? Always? Are. You. Serious?
I still have moments when someone helpfully decides to gift me with their insight and it feels less like a gift, more like a raid on my person… but on the whole, I try to hold to the notion that all information is information and that, mostly, to be informed is better than ignorance….mostly….
We worked up the “Feedback as a Gift” metaphor when I worked with Acorn in Edinburgh – were we asked participants to think of the Best Gift Ever… why was it so good?
Generally, good gifts were sought, useful or pleasant. Some (like the trip up a volcano) were going to be experiential and potentially hard work. Others were simply lovely to have. Good gifts were thoughtful. They weren’t always massive, or delivered on special occasions. These were gifts given freely, kindly and received with thanks. Sometimes the wrapping was appreciated as much as the gift inside – the time taken to prepare was obvious and generous. Mind you… overly wrapped up and it all seemed a bit flouncey….
Worst gifts ever? No thought. No wrapping. No apparent relevance. They often left the recipient wondering What The Hell the giver was thinking… and curious as to “what does this say about me?” Worst gifts were offensive, baffling, carelessly offered, unsuitable. Worst gifts sat uselessly in cupboards, or awkwardly in wardrobes – never used, never useful and frequently hated.
Telling were also the “I gave a crap gift and it came back to me” stories ( which in the context of a feedback metaphor is deliciously Karmic). The stories where terrible wine given was re-wrapped and knowingly re-gifted, only for it to end up back with the giver….
I think I get the whole Feedback is a Gift theory now…..
Helen’s invitation was to write something about: Feedback would happen all the time if…..
So my take is this:
It would happen more often if we thought a little more carefully about the gifts we bestow and how we offer what we see or believe to be true.
It would happen more often if we were a little more thoughtful about the receiver and a little less preoccupied by what we have to say.
It would happen more often if we trusted the person/ people/ organisational context that the feedback was offered in was unlikely to be incendiary – some people use words like weapons & those “gifts” are damaging.
And yet underlying this post is the a nagging voice I have which says that to separate a category of conversation as “feedback” does all sorts of weird, distorting things to the dialogue. We get all tangled up: “I must give feedback. There are rules to how I do this” etc. If we focus on the quality of conversation and relationship we have with each other, the feedback stuff kind of takes care of itself, I would offer…