Monday, September 26, 2011

Guest post -- Jen's Pet Word: Feedback

Today we engage in a little group therapy with my guest, Jen from Jenaissance, and her Pet Word (one of those annoying, feral pets): feedback.

Here's a word I can't stand: feedback. I'm not talking about it in a technical sense -- “We've got feedback on mike one!” In that context it's a perfectly good word. It's the other usage – the touchy-feely, politically correct, don't-take-it-personally – that drives me nuts.

Full disclosure: I'm what we like to refer to as “mentally interesting.” This means I've had more than my fair share of group therapy. For the uninitiated, that would be a “safe environment” where you come together to “dialogue” about your issues and receive “feedback” (aha!) from others. Yes, there is a lot of Kleenex involved.

As you can imagine, we're a bit fragile in our sensibilities. In other words, we don't respond well to criticism (more Kleenex!) Therefore, we receive “negative feedback” from our peers. It's an excellent opportunity to practice our “I” statements. “I feel that perhaps you are not being as assertive as you might be.” This is negative feedback; it's our personal opinion given in the hopes of providing you with some clarity. (I'm good at this, aren't I?) “Stand up for yourself, already!” is not seen as productive.

Now lest you think it's all mean girls on Xanax, there is also “positive feedback.” This is when someone tries to come up with something nice to say to you, usually at the behest of the group leader. It generally happens after several negatives have been shared. You know, the kind of things grandmas say. “I feel it was very brave of you to share today.” It's sort of the therapeutic equivalent of saying someone has a nice personality.

“Feedback” is such a non-confrontational term that it's been happily co-opted by human resources departments everywhere. It's got multiple applications – it can be used to describe your performance, advise on your projects, and tell you that the company's being downsized starting with you. It's the kinder, gentler approach. Okay, it's the approach the least likely to get you sued.

Now that I have shared, I feel that this has been a useful and informative endeavor. I think that I have achieved my purpose, and take satisfaction in that. Thank you for your participation. Please feel free to leave me your feedback in the comments.

Thanks for being my guest this week, Jen!

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