Unsolicited feedback

Unsolicited feedback

My blunder

A few years ago I was taking part in a workshop and I gave what I thought was helpful feedback to someone else; something like “It’s easier if you …”

Result? I offended and upset the person and could easily have put them off dancing altogether (especially if they had been a beginner).

That was a hard lesson for me to learn. My well meaning attempt to help just made someone feel bad. I might as well have said “I know better than you” or “You’re doing it wrong, stupid!”.

Helping or bigging oneself up?

Years later I wonder if my feedback was less about trying to help the other person than about bigging myself up. It makes me cringe thinking about my arrogance and I can only apologise.

“Unsolicited feedback is often jealousy in disguise”. Wayne E. Pollard, https://boscafelife.wordpress.com/tag/unsolicited-feedback/

I really like that.

I also remember that when taking classes I would often ask questions to which I thought I already knew the answers. Maybe I thought the teachers had left something out or maybe some other people were making some mistakes that I thought the teachers hadn’t seen. Again, I am sorry for my arrogance, especially if you were in a class with me where I did that. People must have thought me such a pain in the arse! And I agree!

Thankfully I have at last learned some etiquette about taking classes:

  • IĀ am not the teacher. Don’t upstage the teachers!
  • Trust the teachers; they can see what I can and will deal with it in their own way. If I don’t trust the teachers, why am I in that class anyway?

How should one pick up on errors?

I now sincerely believe that I shouldn’t, at all! The only exception is if someone could get hurt. More about this later.

By emphasising something I perceive as “wrong”, I make the other person feel bad, and that’s neither fun nor a good learning experience.

But isn’t ignoring errors harmful?

I’m not ignoring errors. If people are making mistakes, that is a (sometimes essential) part of learning and given time they may realise their mistake and correct it themselves.

If people aren’t getting something, it might mean I need to change how I am teaching it, rather than telling them they are getting it wrong.

Is all unsolicited feedback harmful?

For a while I thought so. But now I have set myself the challenge of giving only positive feedback in the form of affirmations. For example

“I liked it when you did … It made me feel …” or “It meant I could do …”

Is giving only positive feedback insincere?

Not if it is honest and authentic. The key here is honesty. We are being honest and truthful about something the person did that we like. How can that be a bad thing?

It is also likely that they will automatically do more of what we complimented because that makes them feel good.

My rules forĀ positive feedback

  1. It must be honest
  2. It must be factual, not a value judgement (not “… was good” but “I liked …”)
  3. It should make the recipient feel good (especially important for beginners)
  4. It should include why I liked what they did
  5. No matter how inexperienced the person is or how many mistakes they are making there will always be something they did that we liked.

Some other examples of affirmations

“I love it that you are working so hard on this.”

“It’s great that you are persistent. It takes time to get it doesn’t it!”

“It’s great to see such enthusiasm!”

Whether you are a teacher or a student you can use affirmations like this to help people feel good and to help them get better at what they are doing.


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