Summary: Honest feedback is essential to the quality of any product or service. This post provides a few helpful parameters to get you started on the road to constructive criticism, whether it be in the workplace, school, or arts world.
Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a showing of an independent filmmaker friend's short Non-Love-Song at the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. What a treat! The film was packaged with a number of other shorts, each exploring the themes of love and friendship, especially from a queer perspective. After the films were shown, there was a brief Q & A session with my friend Erik Gernand and the other cast members and directors. Then we audience members were asked to rate the films to our liking, to help provide some feedback to the filmmakers (and potential awards).
Tomorrow, I'll be treated to my own feedback when I hand in some of my written work to my fellow creative writing classmates. Today, I have feedback on the brain!
Honest feedback is essential to the quality of any product or service. Constructive criticism can be difficult to attain, however, particularly for the first-timer. If you struggle with this, here are some helpful parameters:
(1) Focus on the positive first. When you make someone feel good about his or her performance—whether that be work performance, academic or artistic achievement, or something else altogether—you alleviate their initial anxiety and make it easier for them to receive information clearly. (See my old post on cognitive functioning to understand this more.)
(2) Be specific. General information is okay to start with (such as, "Overall, this piece made me feel good"), but it isn't all that helpful in the long run. Clarify any vague statements by citing examples using the Who-What-When-Why-Where-How Rule: "Overall, this piece made me feel good, because it used upbeat music (what) and had fast-paced, comedic dialogue (what); I found myself tapping my toes and smiling (where or how it affected you)."
(3) Word negative feedback proactively. It's unhelpful to simply state, "I didn't like the storyline." This can easily be dismissed as a subjective difference of opinion. What is helpful is to issue a challenge to the person you're critiquing or to share one specific way a portion of their work could be improved. In example, "The storyline was very negative, and as a reader, I was turned off by this. Perhaps if you peppered it with at least some optimism here and there—maybe by introducing a happier character who can reinforce your hero's angst—this would be more digestible to a broader audience."
Constructive criticism in the workplace is imperative. As co-workers, we rely on each other's honesty to ensure that we're doing the best job possible. This is even more important in teamwork situations. Practice giving honest, helpful feedback to those around you. The more you can do this, the more you improve your world.
© KiKi Productions, Inc. 2009