Life is challenging at the moment, in the best possible way. Every sunrise I wake with a million things to do and by sunset my mind is teeming with what I’ve learnt through ticking a few things off my list! I’m enjoying it because the constant stimulation means I’m learning loads, but there is a tougher aspect; the equally constant criticism I’m receiving.
Most recently I’ve been pitching a business proposal to the Royal Academy of Engineering. Writing is a very personal occupation and in this case especially so, as the pitch is to win money to realise one of my own concepts, meaning I have a vested attachment to the project. As I’m keen to learn and make the pitch the best it can be, I’m developing it iteratively, passing it around for rigorous scrutiny by my elders at various stages in the process. This makes for transformative learning; I’m genuinely leaving discussions feeling like my understanding has jumped to new levels.
When opening yourself up to feedback, there’s a fine line between receiving criticism positively and feeling useless. Whilst a proportion of this is down to choosing to take criticism in good faith, I’m pretty sure I don’t have the skin of a hippopotamus. Therefore, the answer must be that those giving the criticism are doing so in a truly constructive manner. This has had me reflecting on what does make good feedback and in doing so I came across the BBC rule: Feedback should be balanced, believable and constructive. An equally important point was avoiding ‘but’ sandwiches, meaning don’t hide negatives in the middle of praise – get them out in the open where they can do some good! Haven’t we all been guilty of offering but butties at some point?
When receiving criticism, I find it’s really useful to engage with mentors in person, working my way through a solution with them. But in this age of technology and travel, the best person to talk to isn’t always next to you. So the next frontier on my feedback crusade is tackling how to build the level of rapport that arrives through face-to-face discussions via email.