Friday, September 9, 2011

The Art of Healthy Feedback: Part I - How To Get It

Part I of a two-part series on asking for and giving healthy feedback. While both pieces are focused on writing and other creative pursuits, they can be easily adapted to the many situations in our lives when we are giving or seeking help or advice. 

Stay in charge of your creative process by reading these guiding principles before sharing your work with anyone -- including your life partner or best friend.

1. Be Protective.
You have no more right to knowingly expose your work to influences that could harm it or set it back than you do your child. Seek out only those people and situations that will support you and your writing. Never assume that the people closest to you will be the most supportive. Always use your discernment.

2. Be Open.
Your work, like your child, requires fresh air and outside influences. Don’t be overprotective and suffocating. Be open to others’ perceptions, comments and responses.

3. Be Aware.
To everything there is a season. At different stages in your work and your process, you will be ready to hear different things. Respect where you are and seek only the type of feedback you are prepared to receive and integrate. Recognize when you are at your most raw and respect that.

4. Be Clear.
Be clear about the type of feedback you require and desire.

5. Be Explicit.
Once you know what kind of feedback is appropriate at this time, ask for it -- clearly, directly and without equivocation. Your reader cannot know how best to support you unless you make your needs clear. If you are vague and unclear, you open yourself to comments you are not ready to hear, comments that could feel damaging, even if they’re not intended to be so.

6. Be Strong.
Know what you want and don’t be afraid to speak up when you’re not getting it, or when you’re getting something you didn’t ask for. Remember, this is your work and your creative process. You have every right to seek out what will help and support you.

7. Be Discerning.
The words on your page are an expression of you but they are not you. Negative comments, whether intentionally cruel or not, have no power to harm you, unless you abdicate your power and allow yourself to be hurt. In fact, take neither praise not criticism too seriously. Deep inside, you know your work’s strengths and weaknesses. Tap into that inner knowingness and rely on it to discern which comments support you and serve your work at this stage in its development and yours.

• How can you be clearer in the feedback you seek?

• How can you be more discerning in who you ask for feedback?

• How can you be more respectful of your work's needs and your own when seeking feedback?

The Art of Healthy Feedback: A Two-Part Series

Adapted from The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write, (c) 2008 Mark David Gerson 

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