#73 — Control the chaos of feedback by asking with intent and handling with care.
I’ve been writing a lot lately. Between the short stories, book writing, this newsletter, occasional notes and essays, I am in the most prolific period of writing of my life (so far!) It’s a wonderful place to be. At the same time, writing a lot means getting a lot of feedback. Just this week, I got feedback on three short story submissions, fables in my book, today’s featured essay, and a new piece I wrote in a workshop. Feedback came from all directions. I was grateful for all of it, but started to get overwhelmed.
It made me think about the struggles of receiving feedback. Great feedback can be a wonderful gift, but if we don’t ask for the right things, or prepare ourselves with the right mindset, it can end up hurting us more than helping us. I decided to channel my struggles into my writing, and for the past week or so I’ve been drafting and editing a new essay that I’m excited to share with you: How to Ask for Feedback.
In this essay, I share the best strategies I’ve found to help me control the chaos of incoming feedback by asking with intent and handling with care. You can read a preview of the essay below, or check out the full post on my blog. I hope it helps you in your own journey!
P.S. It’s been a fun experience getting feedback from peers on this essay about feedback 😅 I’d love to hear your thoughts, too!
How to Ask for Feedback
Great feedback is a gift, but most feedback isn’t great. It takes a lot of intention, practice, and self-awareness to master the art of giving feedback. It treads on treacherous territory—the Ego—making it tough to toe the line and easy to take the wrong turns. As a result, most of the feedback we get is all over the place.
Occasionally, we get feedback that sparks us with a life-changing boost, rocketing us to a higher plane of confidence. Yet too often, we're forced to settle for feedback that’s misaligned to our needs, poorly delivered, or both. This is a dangerous problem, because the wrong feedback can be destructive to our work and debilitating to our confidence. The stakes are sky high. Getting feedback can feel like plucking from a mixed bag of delightful, decent and devastating.
How do we escape this gambling game of pain or gain?
Thankfully, the feedback we get is not determined entirely by those who give it. With a little planning and care, we can greatly improve incoming feedback. When we seek out feedback pro-actively, we control two crucial parts of the process: what kind of feedback we ask for, and how we receive it. It’s in our best interests to take advantage of these levers to improve the impact of feedback that comes our way. Our growth (and sanity) depends on it.
In this essay, we’ll explore tactics we can use to elevate our clarity when asking for feedback, and ways to manage our mindsets while receiving it. With a few adjustments to our approach, we can dramatically improve the effectiveness of the feedback we get, and protect our peace in the process.
The worst mistake we can make is to ask for feedback without clarifying what we’re looking for. Unless we’re working with a trusted peer who also happens to be a mind-reader, this is a recipe for disaster.
There are two main kinds of feedback:
1. Tactical: “I see your goal. You could try this other route to get there—it might be shorter, simpler, or more fruitful.”
2. Strategic: “I see your goal. You should pursue this other goal instead.”
Decide which one you want, and make sure to ask for it specifically.
. . . (Continue Reading)
I’m excited to share that another one of my stories was published: Holy War is a spicy bite-sized piece of fiction. I really enjoyed playing with rhythmic writing on this piece. I hope you enjoy it too!
I’ve shared a couple of my acceptances so far, but don’t be fooled—I’ve been racking up lots of rejections too! Lately, I’ve been pushing myself to submit more stories, as submitting to flash journals helps me understand the ins-and-outs of what makes great flash fiction. I’m sharing my submission progress on Twitter, if you’re curious to follow along.
I’ll leave you with my mantra for this year, shared earlier on Twitter:
My mantra for this year is to slow down.
And to know that slowing down does not mean doing less. It just changes the meaning of doing.
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” —Lao Tzu
Very thoughtful essay. This is a topic I’ve never thought too much about, but now that you’ve touched upon it, I can’t help but realize these feelings were there. I’ve always wished for better feedback, but I never really asked for it the right way. I was doing a workshop the other day with another writer and he started by asking me whether there were any specific areas I wanted to work on. It took me a bit to answer, and ultimately I passed the ball to him and he started telling me what he noticed. I wasn’t in control of my own feedback process. And I only now notice this. Thanks for the thoughts, Salman!