Feedback

A theme in all my orientation classes is the primacy of feedback in communication: how you give it, how you receive it.

When you gratefully welcome feedback into your life from colleagues, you grow as a professional, because you learn. When you usefully provide feedback to your colleagues, they get better as professionals, because they learn.

That’s why defensiveness and unfriendliness are killers when it comes to the work of communication.

A short while ago a friend forwarded me a short memoir written by Phil Mott, a mutual friend from our university years four decades ago. It covers this theme:

My girlfriend encouraged me to write and set me up with the Prodigal Sun editor [Bob Basil], the entertainment section of the paper. He assigned me a rather harmless assignment of reviewing the movie American Gigolo.  I wrote the review and sat down with one of the editors to review the article. Bob was a kind-eyed soul with a talent for writing and an affection for the spirit of Jack Kerouac. His stories took him on wild trips riding rails and visiting the less fortunate of the world. He sat next to me with a red pen and wrote more in red than I had double-spaced typed. I was crestfallen. He wrecked me in ten minutes and crushed any dream that I ever had of writing anything but a to-do list ever again. He then looked up at me with a smile and told me “looks pretty good. I like it. You made some nice observations”.  His support was greatly appreciated and kept me from jumping out of a window. He passed the review on to the copy department, red marks and all, and, just like that, I was a writer.

In giving me permission to reprint this passage, Phil wrote, “I would love it if my addled brain remembrance is of some use. Take it as a grand compliment that your advice stuck with me all of these years. It helped me give feedback to my own college students.”

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