I did not know what to say in today’s entry until a few seconds ago when I found a comment in response to my website and this blog. I am a little suspicious but feel safe. I should be open to feedback. That is the topic today: feedback. If this published journal we call an autobiographical blog is to function as a collaborative enterprise, then I should encourage and welcome feedback
The comment I got is from some unknown person who uses an alias. He or she just said that they really like the website and plan to follow it. That is fine.
I guess it is normal to feel skeptical and even suspicious about receiving unexpected messages from strangers. We doubt the intentions and the action, even though we may post public messages ourselves. In fact, my website (www.edwise2008.com), has a feedback form, though this is the first time I have ever received feedback through that mechanism. I have had feedback to this blog posted properly as a comment on the blog page, but that was from a middle aged student who was in one of the government programs, and happened to be an exceptionally outgoing person. Well, it is wise to be cautious on the internet and in any exchanges with strangers, of course.
Still, I think there is trepidation about receiving feedback, even when it is solicited, because one may have had lots of experiences when individuals or even organizations abuse the practice of giving feedback and are rude, unfair or unnecessarily harsh. There are other kinds of negative feedback exchanges. People may sometimes feel they that they can say whatever they want when they communicate anonymously on the internet. Else, they may think the person is weak and flawed just because they ask for feedback and therefore expect the object or subject of the feedback to faulty. Worse, the person relaying feedback may take on the voice of a teacher or father. Then there are the ones with chips on shoulder who need an outlet for anger or frustration and decide to pick on your contribution.
Besides the above, there is the general ethos of being overly critical in a society built around criticism throughout many of Western Judeo-Christian institutions and roles including church, education, politics, news journalism, law, parenting and employment. People in those societies are trained to look for the negative and assault it. My next novel, a work in the early stage of progress, is on this problem. We in such societies are constantly being judged and therefore in the habit of giving and expecting judgment. The culture can be cold, painful and stressful because of this habit alone. Indeed, there are many situations such as at school and work where several voices dish out criticism, effectively ganging up on someone. It is enough to make people feel generally unloved.
All the same, criticism can be helpful and very positive when it is given in appropriate times and places, requested and acknowledged, couched in care and civility, fair and balanced, and passes along praise and positive remarks too. There is well thought out criticism that is presented out of love and concern, and there is brow-beating, nagging and general violence disguised or not as conversation. Let us talk about feedback in the positive sense.
When people present words publically, they are asking for responses, even if they do not say so or want it. It is fair to respond to published content. However, there is a correct way to offer criticism, and it should be offered. There are correct types of criticism. People should feel safe to hear and give opinions. They are just opinions. Since words can be weapons, and aggression is a feature of societies that battle militarily, politically and legally all the time, we are used to expecting attacks when the door is open for discussion. Just look at our parliaments or election campaigns, for example. They can be downright nasty. It is unacceptable to be nasty in those forums, whatever and how much people seem to get away with it. It takes education and practice to exchange opinions in appropriate ways without bullying. Schools and other institutions ought to provide training in conversation and debate. If better habits of sharing opinions are adopted, then we can let down our defenses and consider the opinions offered. After all, we are free to accept or reject them.
Collaboration should be done in such a civil, patient, reasoned, and careful way. Giving feedback is part of the collaboration process. Let’s imagine a project proposal and look how it would proceed in collaborative process. Someone gets an idea and tells another person about it and listens to their response. If there is enough interest, those two people tell others. Though one person takes the initiative to come up with a plan, it is a social process that requires consultation. Whatever the project, it cannot be done alone. Each person depends on others to make the project come about. A formal proposal is made a presented to potential sponsors and partners, who critique it and then accept it or put it through some revisions and agree to work on it together with the proposal creators. Step by step, there are consultations and feedback about a range of subjects, from materials to budgeting, from time-lines to labor. There is no other way to do it other than through a social organization and collaboration.