For Feedback

I used to work as a sound technician in my university theatre company, and back then, feedback was something to be avoided at (almost) any cost. But since I left the theatre, I’m a convert. Feedback is a wonderful thing and I won’t let anyone tell me otherwise!

In the theatre, feedback was the effect of a microphone being able to pick up the speakers it fed to. If I point a microphone at the lead and ask him to sing, the microphone picks up the sound and send it [via various amplifiers etc] to one or more speakers. If one of those speakers is standing behind the lead, he will be able to hear himself (that’s a good thing!) but there’s also a chance that his microphone will be able to hear the noise coming out of the speaker. Because the lead-mic-speaker process is all-but instantaneous, you end up with a feedback loop, which means the mic is picking up infinite copies of the same sound, amplifying them and pumping them out of the speaker, only for the mic to pick them up again. The result: an ear-splitting squeak that everyone in your audience will recognise as a bad thing.

However, outside the world of microphones and speakers, feedback has the opposite effect.

As a lawyer, one of my biggest challenges was the lack of feedback. It’s something we are usually good at providing in the education system, but the big wide world gives up. Many bosses only do any kind of evaluation during the Annual Review and even that can often be more of a formality than a useful exercise; Clients and customers who pay for a service usually take for granted whatever they get, and vote with their feet next time if they don’t like it.

When I became a waitress, things improved somewhat – I think the tipping culture makes customers in a restaurant more inclined to voice their opinions, and also as a waitress, one is expected to request feedback: “How is everything?”

But it is as a writer that I have really found the world of feedback again. Whether through this blog, or my offline writing groups, I have found people who are willing to share their opinions, good and bad, about the stories I write.

With a microphone, it doesn’t matter whether the lead is singing in perfect pitch or horribly off-key, the feedback loop will sound terrible either way. With human feedback, it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad: if it is honestly and freely given, the recipient can use it to improve themselves if they choose to. Certainly there are more and less useful ways to give feedback, but frankly, giving it at all would be a good start.

I’m trying these days to give feedback in my daily life whenever I can. It matters to me if people notice whether I’ve gone the extra mile (or slacked off!) today, so I figure maybe it matters to everyone. How do you feel about feedback, both given and received?

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “For Feedback

  1. Lyn

    Feedback – or encouragement is very important when children are involved. You only have to see the look of delight on a child’s face when you smile and say something like, “I love the way you helped your little sister with her homework tonight – I’m so proud of you.” Kind words and encouragement don’t cost anything, but can reap wonderful results. Similarly, when you need to admonish, it’s much easier to take if it’s sandwiched between two spoonfuls of sugar 🙂

  2. john from Scotland

    There again feedback is good mainly if given in the right way, as already pointed out tone of voice, facial expression say a lot and can help or hinder the delivery of a message.
    So not all human feedback is good, as it can harm ones self esteem if done badly but lets hope you get lots of feedback to this article.

  3. Well I learned that it’s good to give feedback only if you’re asked to! Many people don’t like them! Personally I’m craving for feedback but for some reason I never get enough! I’d need them badly in my writing things as I’m doing it in another language!!!

  4. Praise and flattery often feel false, and the giving and receiving of such often requires some convincing. I crave honest feedback, from people not invested in me, but it rarely happens. I think that giving constructive feedback is a lost art, and has to be done delicately. I know that I have put my well-intentioned foot in my mouth a number of times.

  5. In response to all the comments – I’m going to come back to this issue in the future, but I think we may have to agree to disagree in the meantime! I agree that there are better and worse ways to give feedback, but I think in general it’s a good start to at least try.

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