On Receiving Feedback

This is a follow up to a piece I wrote in September 2018. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, check out On Feedback and Feedback Culture.

I’m in the profession in which you are constantly taking risks, experimenting with this and that, then evaluating how it has worked out. If it weren’t for these subtle (sometimes major) tweaks, my teaching would be uninspired, unintelligent, and flat out boring. Even I wouldn’t want to come take my class, if that were the case.

My teaching process typically goes a little something like this:

  1. Wrap up a 4–6ish week series.

  2. Sit down and sequence a new series. It’s almost always very similar to the previous series, as I don’t find it logical to take a completely different route (ex. going from handstand to eka pada galavasana).

  3. Try it out. Think about how everything went after class. Take any feedback provided into consideration.

  4. Change something. Change more things. Move a certain part of class to appear earlier or later. Repeat.

  5. Take other classes and get ideas. Recall my studies. Become inspired and incorporate that into my classes.

  6. Repeat for the next few weeks before it’s time to revisit item 1 again.

I find so much value in making minor changes every single class. I get real-time feedback from my students about what works, what is too challenging, what is confusing and could use clarification, what could be approached differently, and so on.

Photo by  Alex Kacha

Photo by Alex Kacha

Now here is where the feedback comes in. I take feedback from my students (if they offer it, or if I solicit for it), hear it, and let it sit. More often than not, it will be something ego-feeding like, “That was great!” or “I really enjoy your style.” Sometimes the feedback comes in the form of leaving class as soon as it’s over, and that’s okay too.

If I am lucky, a peer will take my class. Their feedback is especially valuable to me because they’ve been on the other side — dictating movements, observing, holding space, and spinning all the plates that we as teachers do at any one point in time in class. I live for the constructive feedback and don’t take it as a jab or a shortcoming — I take it as a different perspective.

In receiving feedback, first and foremost, it should always be solicited feedback, never unsolicited feedback. No one likes the person who offers their opinions and feedback when it was never asked for because you’re less likely to be in the frame of mind to be receptive, and it’s just a rude thing to do that reeks of superiority or condescension. With solicited feedback, check in with yourself to see that you are willing and able to be receptive as someone offers their feedback to you.

The second component to this is to hear the feedback and then listen to it. When you take the time to listen to it, you can process it and digest it, instead of brushing it off or letting it go in one ear and out the other. This goes pretty hand-in-hand with my first point about being mentally ready to be receptive.

Give yourself time to let this feedback land. Does it make sense? If not, ask the person for clarification. Maybe it has to be said in a different way. If it does make sense, what about this feedback will you use? What about this feedback will you not use?

In order for feedback to be effective, you must understand that feedback never comes from a place of malice. Once you start to take it as a personal attack, feedback loses its efficacy and doesn’t make sense for you to have solicited for it in the first place. It prevents you from walking along a path of growth and quite frankly, it’s self-sabotage.

What if you get feedback that you don’t agree with? Think about what specifically about the provider’s feedback may not align with your beliefs. Is it simply ignorant, or is it ill-informed (e.g. anatomically incorrect)? In either of these cases, you should be able to justify why this feedback won’t work for you and why you will not be trying it out as opposed to writing it off for personal reasons or because you don’t understand what the provider meant.

Photo by  Alex Kacha

Photo by Alex Kacha

Let me know if any of this was helpful, and of course, I’d love your feedback.

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