The Art of Feedback
by Femke Goedhart, Business Consultant, Silverside
I got some really valuable feedback lately about some of the blogging I've been doing, and it has showed me once more how important it is to ask for, and get feedback when blogging. Blogging can be quite a lonely process and re-evaluating your efforts now and then can help you keep your focus straight and reassure you that you are on the right path. Most importantly though, it can give you some valuable insights into what the effect of your blogging really is.
Feedback can come in many forms, from public comments, to fleeting remarks, to mentions or referrals from other blogs, to private conversations. Anything that others have to say or do regarding previous posts that will get you to re-evaluate, learn, or improve on your future blogs is in fact a form of feedback. And although getting feedback can be scary (it isn't necessarily always the feedback you were hoping for) you should still cherish those who give it to you, because giving feedback can actually be just as daunting as receiving it is.
Now I'm no feedback expert and there are more than enough articles and blogs around to discuss the techniques for giving feedback. But truth is most of us get or give feedback on a regular basis without ever having read those, and with the rise of social business, that is only going to increase. It’s not that hard but there are things to keep in mind, especially with giving feedback on blogging because blogging in general is about expressing opinions and experiences and can therefore be very personal.
Oh my…. they want to know what I think: Giving feedback
Giving feedback can be daunting. Especially when asked. The important thing though is to keep it all in perspective.
Accept that not all feedback will hit home: Even if you give feedback on request there is no guarantee it will be understood, accepted, or followed up, especially in blogging where feedback often reverberates around giving your opinion on someone else’s opinions. Don’t let that discourage you, you might still have seeded some doubts or insights of which the effects will come through later.
Use the right medium: Not all feedback is suitable for it to be given in a public form, like in the reactions of a blog post. Giving negative feedback in public might cause an interesting debate but generally puts people in a defensive position and makes them less responsive to the feedback you are trying to give. Always ask yourself how you would react and if you would prefer it to be one-on-one or in public.
Aim for the future: Don't just hammer on the things they got wrong in their previous posts but try to emphasize where you feel they could improve. It should be about improving their future blogs, not their previous ones.
Don’t be afraid to be challenged: Giving feedback can be just as educational as getting it. Especially if your feedback is challenged by the writer. Be open to dialog, accept that others might think differently, and allow yourself to learn from them too if relevant.
Be constructive: Emphasize the good as well as the bad by calling out both the things you liked and the things you think they could do better. Positive feedback is just as important as negative feedback and having a balance can make it easier for the receiver to accept. At the same time, be truthful. If you feel that something isn't right then don't tell them it is. That's not helping, that's just setting them up to fail.
Here it comes…buckle up: Getting feedback
So, when you get the courage to ask some people for their feedback or receive some spontaneous feedback, what do have to keep in mind?
Dare to learn: Getting feedback on your blog posts is really valuable because most people will just shrug and simply ignore it if they have doubts about it. So, if someone offers it, then always at least think about the remarks they make. Even if it isn't the type of feedback you were hoping for, there almost always is some sort of lesson to be learned from it.
Evaluate your emotions: Feedback can invoke strong emotions. Breathe in and take a step back before reacting. Reading it the second time round often gives you a totally different look on things.
Cherish your feedback givers: People who will give you truthful and valuable feedback (and yes, that can be both positive as well as negative) aren't abundant. If you find those people, cherish them and thank them for it. Those are the people you can really learn from.
Start a dialog: If people give you feedback, respond. It's a perfect opportunity to test your ideas so don't hesitate to ask for clarification or discuss things. It doesn't have to be a one-way street.
Don't let harsh feedback discourage you: Sticking your head out by blogging is sure to invoke a reaction. There will always be someone who doesn’t agree with what you are writing. Don’t let that stop you but use it and learn from it to formulate your ideas even better.
- Dare to ask: Don't be afraid to ask people whose opinion you value for feedback. People in general will be more than willing to help you.
Avoid lip service: It's very flattering hearing people say they think your blogs are great, but if you truly want to learn, these people have little to give. So, find people who will go beyond giving you lip service and will really test your ideas. It won't always be easy to swallow, but it will be ten times more valuable than those who simply tell you everything is great even if they don't really think it is.
Stay truthful to yourself: Getting negative feedback doesn't necessarily mean you are wrong in what you are doing or writing. Feedback givers can be wrong too. Challenge them if you feel that is the case, but at all times keep an open mind to learn; that's what feedback is for.
But most important of all and applicable to both feedback givers as well as receivers: Be respectful.
Recognize the effort the other is making and realize how you would feel in their shoes. That way, it can be a great and rewarding process for both.
Femke Goedhart is a Business Consultant for Silverside, an IBM Premier Business Partner from The Netherlands. She specializes in document management, collaboration and social business; she is an avid blogger, and a speaker at several events including NLLUG, LCTY, and Lotusphere. Femke is actively involved in the online community and was recently honored as an IBM Champion. She is also a published IBM Redbooks author and is a contagious enthusiast about all things social.
Femke is an IBM Redbooks Thought Leader