Feedback, a valuable communications tool

I knew I was going to see it scribbled over my work. But how much was another story. The bright red ink bled through my typed words. When the pen tip left the paper for a breath at the end of each hash, “x” mark, squiggle and slash, the red ink remained like a sticky blotch, coagulating. The build up was this trail of markings. They taunted me.

I didn’t enjoy seeing all those marks and flags, but it was my first shot at this craft, and I was hungry to learn.

I sat down at bossman’s desk to review my work. When I stood up to get to work on another draft, that moment was a pivotal one. There and then I learned the most important piece of advice during my college and young adult years.

I learned the key to communication across all mediums, spoken, written, movement and brush that would forever play an integral role in my professional and personal life: feedback is the most valuable form of communication.

I worked hard to wrangle the interviews. I had 60+ pages in a magazine to fill and a sparse student body to pick from during the summer months. I prepared my questions, had my recording devices ready and even wrote down keywords to jog my memory when it came time to write up my findings.

We had a lengthy discussion. He asked my thoughts, my reasonings and he considered my input. I listened to his critiques, his explanations and his reasonings for all the red markings.

During that first internship I had the summer of my sophomore year at Pitt, those eight words are the most important piece of advice I received about the service industry. To this day, I have yet to come out of a situation where feedback wasn’t necessary or that I learned a better, more profound professional tidbit.

Feedback can be personal; it is intimate. When you directly ask for feedback about a business idea or press release, you are essentially the product and are directly asking for feedback about you and your thinking. This communication lane is between you and someone else and that produces vulnerability, weakness and doubt.

It also produces strength, a sense of purpose, loyalty, reliability, identity and community. By directly asking and receiving feedback you are building bridges and considering others’ opinions.

Feedback about expression, art, ideas and writing is unlike market testing, mathematical trial and error and experiments in science. Yes, those latter examples provide feedback, but the feedback is based on a third party. You are the conductor, then you run the test and receive an outcome. There is a boundary there that makes it less personal because the market gives us feedback and we standby, collect and then adjust. In these situations, we are beyond the conception stage. The feedback we seek in these situations is linked to a tangible and a viable product or service and the goal is to make said product/service the best it can be.

Feedback helps edit words–written or spoken. Feedback helps you edit ingredients in cooking or what business questions you have. Feedback helps you define what you need, what you like and what you don’t. Feedback helps you simplify and build a stronger foundation that will carry you forward.

Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. You won’t grow, learn or change if you don’t actively seek feedback.

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