A Short, Incomplete Class on Receiving Feedback

Somewhere alongside AP Bio and Writing the Essay, a class on receiving feedback would’ve been terrific.

Absent that, here is my Short, Incomplete Course on Receiving Feedback. It can be boiled like spinach down to two pieces: pause and consider.

Tony says my poem isn’t interesting. My knee-jerk reaction may be to tell Tony to go eat it, or to think I can’t write good poetry. Both do zilch for my growth.

But if I can throw a pause in right after Tony’s comment, a widened headspace opens up. Pausing gives me the chance to move out past an instant reaction and collect my thoughts into a considered response. More on that in a sec.

How to pause in the moment? I count my breaths - one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi. Or loosen my regular tensions: jaw, shoulders, muscles around my eyes. Both remind me there’s more to me than my super-strong knee-jerk reaction to Tony.

Go-to genuine acknowledgements of people’s feedback can be useful, too. They keep me from the, “You and the horse you rode in on can go eat it, Tony”/deflated and vowing to never write poetry again reactions. An acknowledgement I use: “Thank you; I want to think on this.”

Back to that widened headspace. Pausing can get me to a bigger consciousness where I can consider if Tony’s comment is true for me. He might like swashbuckling derring do, so my poem would be dull for him. Or he might like the Lucille Clifton poems I like, so his feedback is good for me to chew on.

Not all feedback is created equal. I need that widened headspace to discern which feedback aligns with my priorities and which doesn’t.

It’s just fine, I’ve realized, to feel defensive or deflated. It’s not fine to act on either. Neither are catalysts for enlarging ourselves. And feedback, both the kind that is true and untrue for us, can be instructive in how we grow our spirit.

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