Feedback, being seen, and seeing

Round two of the sharing, feedback, listening, and inner critic series! (Part one, on sharing, when I realized this would end up being a series, can be found here.)

Feedback KaleidoscopeWhen you think about feedback, what immediately comes to mind? For me, it’s [constructive] criticism. How do I make something better? How do I improve or change it? It’s a questioning process designed to make something different from what it is.

But, in writing classes like this, the feedback is not critique focused. It’s content, emotion, reflection. Not, “do this and this and we can make it better.” There’s an understanding of sorts that this really tender piece came out and needs love and compassion, not hacking. And so, feedback takes on a different flavor than we traditionally understand it.

For me, feedback is one way to acknowledge being seen and heard, as well as acknowledging that another has been seen and heard. My favourite type of feedback often is what is called recall, which is repeating back pieces of the writing to the writer. For me, it let’s me listen and absorb, without getting in the way. It’s a way for me to share my experience, without it being about me. (Sometimes, this is hard for me. It’s a great skill to keep working on, though!)

Feedback can also be comments about the piece, or no feedback. But, the silence of “no feedback” still contains the words that are read and serve, in some ways, as a container for what has been shared and experience. It just may look very different.

I was asked by a student what s/he should do with feedback. It made me pause, because that’s a really good question. And, like many good questions, I don’t have any answers to it, but I can speak from my own experience.

Feedback is an important part of the process, because so often, I write in what feels like a void. Just me and the words, and they rarely come out to play. So, when writing in a group, I appreciate the experience of sharing and further appreciate the ability of others to reflect back what they heard. It’s a way of learning more about the piece, especially if I had moments of “That wasn’t me” while writing.

Depending on our lives, our jobs, and so many other circumstances, the process of seeing and being seen can be really hard, so for me, feedback from others is also a practice in receiving being seen, exactly as I am. I can choose to read or not read, or read only select parts of the writing, but regardless, I am sharing something about myself in this process. And receiving the time and space – even if the feedback is silence – is as much a practice as the writing itself is.

Sometimes, being seen and seeing others, as they are, is about not running away. And this, this is also part of the practice.

What is feedback for you? Tell me about your experience with feedback, either in this capacity or another.


7 thoughts on “Feedback, being seen, and seeing

  1. I really love the way different practices manifest the same sorts of ideas.

    There is a thing that is done, sometimes, in 5Rhythms workshops, where someone finds a repetition, a motion that feels right on their body, and shows it to a partner, or a small group, and then the observers reflect that motion back to them — showing them what they saw.

    And it’s interesting to get that different perspective — just the reflection back to you, as unmediated as it can be without videos and playback. To see how different (or familiar) it looks from outside the body that’s acting. To see the subtle differences in breath and tone and energy as someone else moves your movement (like the differences between an author and an actor narrating an audio book).

    And sometimes it’s just that sort of “huh” — it’s an interesting exercise. And sometimes it’s more powerful — to see the weight that’s so evident in the movement that you made, or to see the effort (or absence of effort) that is behind the way you are moving right there — sometimes it starts to tease something out, to make something clear.

    • *nod* I agree, entirely. That the reflection – with our own eyes seeing it, our own ears hearing it, from someone else, rather than ourselves, can be incredibly powerful. Sometimes like the “What would you say to a friend?” question, rather than having our own (well worn) tapes of What is Going On. Rather, a new vantage point.

      It is really interesting that there are all of these tools/methods/whatever that point toward similar ideas or concepts of ways of seeing, that tap into different aspects of ourselves and our lives.

      Thank you so much for sharing this!

  2. I like the way you’ve put this: “a container for what has been shared” Among the classes I teach is one of this ilk, too. It’s such a meditative type of class. Also, counter-cultural — as there are few places that people actually listen to another with focused attention. Nice post!

  3. Aye! I dislike feedback so. I hide from it at every spot. Once I truly have a baby, that is, a novel that has legs and can walk on its own, I will let them go to feedback. That’s when feedback will be good, but right now, my stories are just learning how to crawl, and until I can feel they are prepared for the SAT, that is when they will be ready for feedback.

    As you can see, I hate feedback. I have to feel extremely confident about my work for feedback, or I won’t take what people say seriously.

    • Interesting. I often am the same way. Putting these kinds of posts up has been hard, wondering “What feedback will there be?”

      What do you mean, you wouldn’t take someone seriously? In what ways?

      How do you think you’d feel if you handed someone a baby manuscript and they simply marked points that resonated with them? Would that feel different for you?

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