Of Praise Sandwiches, Propitiatory Rituals and Feedback

He that struggles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.Edmund Burke

If you don’t accept compliments graciously, especially when that praise is a propitiatory ritual for some (potentially helpful) feedback, then you are never going to hear the truth from people about what they think, at least not face to face.*

Think how difficult it is for most (not all!) people to give critical feedback, how nervous it makes them.  Will they get yelled at?  Will they get argued with? Will they get cut out of future invites and opportunities?  How can you, who presumably wants to keep getting feedback, assure the person that they won’t be blasted?

Well, accept the positive bit, the bread bit of the praise sandwich.  If you don’t smile and say thank you, then you are sending the message that

a) you are bidding for yet more affirmation and/or
b) you are irredeemably filled with self-loathing (and thus not likely to receive feedback!!) and/or
c) you don’t actually respect the opinion of the person giving the feedback.

So assuming the person who giving the praise DID have a follow-up/suggestions/critiques, they will either
a) swallow them altogether, or else
b) let loose the smallest/mildest (and least useful!) snippets,
before throwing yet more praise and retreating.  And how likely are they to offer further comments in the future?  And how likely is anyone who has observed the interaction to stick their head above the parapet?

From a giver’s perspective.
So for example, I recently sent an author a list of typos etc that had appeared in a book. Because I don’t know the guy, have never met him, I did NOT mention the immortal phrase “patently self-evident”.  Why? Because it would have been too in-yer-face – you can only give that sort of feedback to someone with whom you have a really strong relationship, OR who has shown themselves to be happy to get such feedback.  It’s insane to leap in with both feet, if you want any sort of relationship with them…
How many valuable bits of advice to all of us fail to even hear (let alone learn from) because we are sending out “One word out of turn and I’ll bite your head off” vibes?

* It’s good practice to have “anonymous feedback” forms.  And publish them. And show that you’ve acted on it where appropriate.

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About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
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