Do you sometimes receive feedback that you don’t really want (or don’t even need) to hear? How does it make you feel to receive unsolicited feedback?
In fact, does it matter if the unsolicited opinion comes from someone you totally respect or someone you don’t even know?
It’s human nature to notice perceived flaws and to look for ways to fix them. It’s even becoming a normal practice in society to go to that person with the potential flaw and offer up a suggestion just to help. I’ve seen this countless times at Toastmasters contests, and I’ve observed the facial expressions of the recipients (and yes, I have done it myself).
Last year I attended the Toastmasters International Convention in Connecticut. Early in the week, some of us were fortunate to be able to watch a finalist in the coming World Championship of Public Speaking (WCPS) practice her speech.
I really like the rule that the World Champs used for this session: after the speech, we were encouraged to provide positive feedback to the contestant – one each. If any of us thought we saw some improvement that just had to be said, we were to hold that comment and provide it to one of the champs (5 were present). Then they would collaborate and work with the contestant to provide the improvements that in their experience would help her out.
That led me to a couple of good rules we can all follow, whether in our Toastmaster club environments, or in the business world:
1. Positive comments are rarely solicited, so be sure to offer them generously when they are deserved. Bonus hint: They are always deserved.
2. Unsolicited critiques are almost never appreciated. Avoid offering your evaluation unless you’re asked. Note: You are not the exception to this rule.
3. Consolidate improvement where possible. I don’t mean gang up (i.e. “12 of us thought you should pause longer, so I was elected to tell you”), but you should avoid a steady stream of 2-3 improvements from multiple sources.
In Good Guys, a new comedy/drama/cop thing on Fox, the lead character asks his boss why he can’t move into a more exciting job in the department. As an example of his behavior, She offers “You corrected the Captain’s grammar…in front of the Chief.” Instead of realizing his mistake and moving on, he responded “There is no ‘statue of limitations.'”
Giving a critique to someone, even if you are completely right, is not some sort of constitutional right. You’ll be more successful with your opinion if it’s solicited, and you’ll be more effective when the recipient is receptive. Remember to stay positive, and only give critiques to those who actively seek your opinion.