On Feedback and Feedback Culture

What do you think of when you hear the word “feedback”? Do you think of that awful sound that reverberates when the audio isn’t right? Or the response you get from a speech you give? What about when someone tells you about what they honestly think about something you’ve done?

In just about any profession or trade, it’s constantly evolving. To evolve, you need to continually keep a line of self-inquiry open — but it helps your self-inquiry if you get an outsider’s perspective. This is where feedback comes in to play.

As a yoga teacher, I can’t grow if I don’t tweak a few things about my teaching every so often. In doing this, I rely on feedback from my peers and other teachers to help me see what works and what doesn’t work. I have to see feedback as such, because there’s nothing else to extrapolate from it. If it doesn’t work for me, then I don’t utilize the feedback. If it doesn’t, then I obviously do.

 

 Physical assists need feedback. It can be pretty immediate like someone recoiling. Photo by  Che Holts .

Physical assists need feedback. It can be pretty immediate like someone recoiling. Photo by Che Holts.

The thing about feedback culture is that a lot of people still don’t grasp is that it’s not personal. Any well-intentioned feedback could be poorly worded or given in a way that may seem like an attack, but it’s not. The point of providing feedback is so that you aren’t constantly living in your own echo chamber. I feel like a lot of us in whichever professional capacity we are in, still do not understand this. If you choose to interpret feedback as a personal attack, how is that beneficial?

Another thing about feedback culture that isn’t fully understood is how to provide feedback and how to receive feedback. Let me recount something that transpired recently:

I took a class in which I couldn’t turn off my teacher brain. There was a lot of it that I felt wasn’t sequenced well, was focused a lot on showcasing the teacher’s prowess in inverting, and a whole laundry list of things I felt were problematic. I reached out to my manager about it, asking about what audits were in place to provide feedback. My manager encouraged me to provide the feedback to this teacher, so I approached said teacher and asked if they would be receptive to hearing my feedback. This teacher said yes, so I told them succinctly to simplify their sequence.

Of course, this teacher wanted elaboration which triggered so many different things I had issue with. Problem #1 was that I wanted to address each item. Wrong move, Jessica. It made this teacher defensive. I meant well — because I wanted to challenge him to re-evaluate his sequencing — but I’m not a master teacher nor am I this teacher’s teacher so in hindsight, I should’ve stepped down. Problem #2 was that while this teacher was receptive, it was the kind of receptiveness that had a limit. Our conversation ended when this teacher got up and walked away from me mid-sentence.

Lessons learned from this:

  1. Provide feedback in a way that challenges the receiver in a supportive way. Ask them what they felt they did well, and for areas of improvement. This way it doesn’t feel like they are under scrutiny.
  2. As a receiver of feedback, listen and accept all feedback with grace. It might be hard to do at first, but it gets easier. It’s an over-used statement but it reads so true: Take what works and leave the rest. At the end of all of it, all you have to say is, “Thank you for the feedback.”

When all is said and done, we’re all wading through the same shit, just in different ways and at different times. Feedback helps us to navigate through it — and it’s our way of supporting each other, to show that we care.