Are you a good parent? How’s your writing coming along? Your physical fitness program?
Regardless of the area of inquiry, we all need feedback. We want to know that we’re doing well. We really want to say ‘yes.’ But has it ever occurred to you that the answer to that question depends, in large part, on who you ask.
The “smalls” often give an A+ grade to a parent who:
- allows fast food for breakfast,
- doesn’t enforce bedtime, and
- provides unlimited screen time.
Elementary school kids might award highest honors to parents who:
- believes them when they report they have “no homework.”
- run interference with any teacher who corrects them,
- and are certain the director of the school musicale plays “favorites.”
By middle school the stakes are higher; the “three i’s” come to mind:
- income and
- independence (the later the curfew, the better, right?)
Silly? Not really. Far too many of us allow our definition of “good parenting” to come from our kids. It’s not unlike grandparents who want to hand out gold stars — as long as they’re getting their own way about sharing holidays and visits with the in-laws!
I once took a course from Chicken Soup for the Soul co-founder Mark Victor Hansen. He often referred to “feedback” as “the breakfast of champions.” He and his team used a variety of methods for collecting input before launching books and other projects. They were looking for weaknesses that could be shored up before going public on a larger scale.
That makes a lot of sense — as long as we can rely on the quality of the feedback we’re. Back when we were in school full time, most of us learned to examine sources. Whether working on a research topic or evaluating news reports, we were taught to take an analytical look at sources and ask questions.
- What credentials (including relevant experience) does the writer have?
- Does she have anything to gain from the report?
- Who disagrees with what he is reporting and what motive might he/she have?
- Are there other, independent authorities with similar information or points of view?
It probably wouldn’t hurt most of us to apply this line of questioning to other areas of our lives. (I cringe when people invite me to hang out with “like-minded people.” How will I grow?)
Am I a writer who accepts “it’s good” from family members and close friends instead of useful critique from other, more accomplished authors and editors? How extensive is my review process prior to submission?
Do I ask fitness advice from my fellow couch potatoes? Or am I willing to make myself uncomfortable by attending classes with people who actually look good in yoga pants?
Useful feedback doesn’t always feel good but it makes us better.
How does this work for you? Please share your tips in the comments.