A couple of years back, I used to conduct sessions on communication skills. It was coordinated by another team. While they took the efforts to organise sessions, gather audience and facilitate the sessions, my work was just limited to conducting the sessions. At the end of every session, participants would be asked to fill a feedback form which would be collected, consolidated and shared with the respective faculty. I used to wait for the organising team to share the feedback and to learn what people had to say about the session.
As with any feedback, it used to be a mix of appreciation and criticism so I used to take it with a pinch of salt. The comments were kept anonymous. So, there wasn’t much to introspect because validating the comments was not possible. I used to wonder if I would have taken these comments seriously had I know whom it came from. The only reason being – it would put me in a better position to understand the reason behind the comments. This got me wondering what would happen if,
- There was a genuine comment from someone whose expertise I wasn’t aware of
- There was a sly comment from someone whom I had the greatest regard for.
Long story short, I wondered which had more weightage- The person providing the feedback or the actual feedback content.
The right to remain anonymous
I’ve observed how providing feedback in person is tricky and how it can get awkward. This is true especially when you’re considered an amateur and you’re trying to share your feedback with the presenter, irrespective of their expertise. While there are some people who genuinely listen to you, some of them get defensive or even shut you down the minute you say something. This is probably why it is better to share comments anonymously through a different medium. It gives the presenter a chance to take an objective look at the comments and for the person sharing their feedback to at least be heard, if not taken seriously.
The power of your name
Feedback is considered effective only when the person with whom it is shared gives it the importance it deserves. The catch here is giving it the importance it deserves. This is mainly because 1. You don’t know if people are genuine 2. You don’t know which are the comments applicable for you and which are the ones that don’t. For instance, if one of the comments was on how your voice wasn’t audible and you were suffering from throat pain that day, you know it’s a one-off case. This is where, knowing who gave a specific comment comes into picture. You know if the person has noticed a pattern (which is very useful feedback) or if the person was waiting to point at least one mistake, just to make a point.
I’m not going to get into the battle of who is right and who is wrong. As much as the ones receiving feedback should not be rigid, even the ones providing feedback should know their boundaries. For instance, would you ever tell your Mom that she should try adding 2 extra tsps of garam masala to make the curry tastier, where clearly your culinary skills don’t go beyond boiling milk and preparing maggi. If it’s a genuine comment, by all means I would suggest you to go ahead and give your comment, but if you’re doing it just for the sake of it, remember how your Mom would react when you try teaching her how to cook. Do you see something flying towards you?
So, which according to you has more weightage – the person providing the feedback or the feedback? Why?
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