Monday I wrote about how we can handle criticism that feels like a personal attack. Ironically, I had an experience this week that got me to thinking about the difference between criticism and feedback.
Criticism is usually unsolicited and often exposes blind spots that are uncomfortable for us to acknowledge. Definition: the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.
Feedback is usually solicited. Definition: information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc., used as a basis for improvement.
Let me tell you about my experience this week. I’ve shared this before, but for those of you newer to this blog, I’ve had to confess and repent of my snobbery. For most of my life I wasn’t able to play tennis because of a back condition. AND, I looked down my nose at those who did, as rich women with nothing more meaningful to do with their time.
However, after surgery a few years ago, I was able to take up the sport and it has brought me great joy as a form of recreation. Some might even say I’m a tad intense about trying to improve at this new sport. (Don’t judge me. You’ve got your stuff too!)
Anyway, I participate weekly in an event where we play a series of 24 games with three different partners – 8 games with each. Our coaches watch our matches and at the end of the morning they give feedback on our play.
During the games yesterday I was discouraged as I tried hard to apply what I was learning, but didn’t play very well. When I came off the court, our coach gave the other girls specific feedback about their play, but for me he had almost nothing to say – either positive or negative. As I drove home I reflected on this experience. I felt really crummy. I needed two things from my coach that morning.
1. I needed honest feedback and instruction on how I could improve my play. I want to get better! That feedback communicates to me that he cares about me and believes I will develop over time.
2. I needed a little perspective. I needed to be reminded that I was playing with women who have been at this for a long time and play at a level above me. Given the circumstances I might have been expecting a bit too much of myself.
Jesus was a feedback kind of guy. He helped disciples and Pharisees alike pay attention to what was really going on. He challenged their priorities and perspective. They may have messed up, but His questions and observations said to them that they had value and potential.
This was honestly a great lesson for me as I mentor others.
- When we give feedback we’re essentially saying that someone else is worth investing in. They have potential.
- When we give feedback we envision a better future for the person. We give them the tools to grow.
- When we give feedback we give people perspective. We help them zoom out to see this was just one game, or one talk, or one project that’s part of the bigger picture of who they are becoming.
Where are you asking for, or giving feedback? What are you learning?