On Giving Feedback

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about receiving feedback. Here are some thoughts about giving feedback…

(1) Don’t agree to give feedback unless you truly have the time and energy required to do so….For example, don’t agree to read someone’s script if you’re too busy. (Note: I’m often guilty of this one) You should assume that the writer spent a ton of hours writing (and re-writing) the script before they gave it to you. The least you should be able to do is read it carefully, think it through and give constructive feedback. So if your schedule’s jammed up at the moment, let that writer know up front. You can say something like “Thank you for thinking of me. I definitely want to read it. Just have a lot on my plate and not sure when I can get to it. I’ll do my best though and in the meantime, if you make changes, send that to me so I have the latest draft.” Better to do this than agree to read it and do a half ass job or worse, never get back to the writer.

(2) Lead with the positive…No matter what, find at least one redeeming quality and lead with that. (This is also big one for coaching youth sports by the way.) Be sensitive that someone has put their heart on the line and is vulnerable to your feedback. By leading with the positive (and there is always, always something positive to find), you’re acknowledging that sensitivity and they are now more open to your constructive notes.

(3) It’s not about you…We all have our own preferences and tastes. When giving feedback though, it’s not about what you want something to be. It’s about first trying to identify what that person wants, what they’re going for. Then helping them find the best version of what that is. This is what the best dramaturgs do. It’s not about them. It’s about the playwright and the play!

(4) Be curious...This is related to #3. Take a deep interest in the other person’s passion. Ask tons of questions. Your questions are potent. They might just help the person unlock their own subconscious and make a breakthrough. Plus you learn something in the process too. Everybody wins!

(5) Be specific…Whatever feedback you give, be prepared to back it up with specific examples. A general feeling is fine, but it’s way more substantive and helpful when you can back up your feeling with examples. And write them down. Writing out your thoughts clarifies your thinking.

(6) Don’t overdo it…You may be inspired and have tons of notes and thoughts. Great. But go back through your notes and pick out the three or four biggest things and provide only that. Chances are if the person works on those, the other things take care of themselves anyway. And if they ask for more granularity, you can give it to them. But don’t do it right off the bat.

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