Pondering feedback: Part 2

I wrote last week about the impact of receiving feedback from my point of view, both as a parent and a writer. For me this is a big issue because of how I relate to feedback. And the response I had I felt was quite interesting. And writing it in turn made me look at the impact of the feedback I deliver to my children and to other writers.

As a parent, giving feedback to my children is a tricky area (as I said last week between parent and child is really what I believe matters). Feedback ranges from the ‘well done’ and ‘that’s amazing’, to the dagger eyes, or the growling yells I can give when I am just not being listened to (although I really should know that the feedback from my children says that I am not being clear or consistent enough with my message in the first place).

I know that all too often I have a negative word to say about the things they do; be quiet, stop, don’t do that, try this, blah, blah, blah. I know about the ‘10 positive things for each negative thing that you say to a child’ rule… It never seems to happen that way round in my house, even though I do try. I have read how this can negatively affect children in later life (and oh, I how I use it to berate myself).

I realise that often what I am telling them off over is my issue and not theirs. How many times in my life have I heard the expression ‘no point crying over spilt milk’ and only recently I have truly come to understand it (we have a lot if spilt milk in our house) – the shouting and the crying do not change the ‘spiltness’ of the milk, so what is the point in it?

But I don’t want them to be reliant on my praise (or criticism), my instructions, my direction or opinion. I often wonder if the type of feedback I received as a child makes me needy of feedback now. I want my girls to be more self-sufficient than I am, able to prompt and drive themselves.

I try to tease things out of them, to ask for their input, to encourage effort and not just results. I can always do better, but I keep trying. The more present I am in my daughters’ lives, the more positive I feel about the prospect of achieving this. Doing things mindfully is definitely the way forward and I hope it can teach me more about delivering feedback in a positive way.

I like to read to promote brain activity, to either challenge or validate my thinking. Neither of these diminish my understanding of the world, both can be positive. I want to read writing that is more like the start of a conversation (even if it is just with myself) than a commentary, for me to watch from the side-lines.

I love the saying that lighting a candle from another candle does not diminish the first, that is an ultimate truth and I have seen it applied to writing and blogging. The idea that by promoting somebody else’s success we are not harming our own. It seems so positive. And yet I am not sure that promoting others work is truly feedback.

Sometimes I am caught by the notion that what someone else is saying is not something I can believe in, or support, or is simply not relevant to me. Sometimes I really feel there is nothing to say or if I did it would just be an empty comment. And I am aware that often I am guilty of holding back, of censoring a comment, of choosing not to share.

Comments from my post last week confirm to me that there is a real taboo about expressing a differing opinion or an alternative solution about a post online. Sure if I went crazy and started slating someone, behaving as a troll then that would be unacceptable. But if done using appropriate language should we not be able to deal with intellectual differences and agree to disagree?

But I worry about what people think. And clearly so do others. I think that is where the problem with feedback lies, it plays into our insecurities. Feeding them if it is perceived as negative. Negative always sounds louder. It is easier to believe that you have failed than succeeded.

Again mindfulness has a role to play, to consider what it would feel like to be the person on the end of what I am saying or doing. Parenting brings out the extremes in behaviour, in me anyway. It makes it easier to identify, but for writing it is less so. I will strive to be honest, and I will strive to help others believe they have succeeded or push them further towards their success.

In parenting and in writing.

Writing Bubble
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8 Comments Add yours

  1. I’ve just read this and then part 1 and you’ve raised some really valid points. I’m newish to blogging and I like the opportunity to connect via feedback but I also have an Illustration website where I blog without comments because it is ‘my place’ to showcase work/posts. When I read blogs I must admit I don’t comment if I don’t like or find the post interesting because I don’t want to be negative, I’d rather save my energy to write a positive comment when I am engaged by something. When it comes to parenting and feedback I agree that mindfulness (where possible!!!!) is far better than blanket praise/criticism.

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    1. Hi, sorry for the delay in replying (I’ve been on a reading and media deprivation week – bizarre experience!). I love that you say ‘where possible’ talking about mindfulness, sometimes it can be so hard can’t it!? I value the interaction and definitely think there is a place for comments, although I can see that a showcase website is not the place for them (what is your other site called?). Blogging is like trying to light the fire of conversation. Thanks for stopping by. x

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  2. Such an interesting post. I totally empathise with your thoughts on blog feedback – I, too, often self-censor as a result of not knowing how to voice my disagreement kindly, but I often crave contrary comments on my own blog because I love to engage in dialogue! I agree with your quandaries about parenting too. Having taught for so long I am always mindful of ‘praising (or criticising) the behaviour not the child’, but I’m not sure I can buy into the idea that some people promote that we should not praise at all. In fact I had an interesting conversation with my mum recently, when she told me that she was so afraid of ‘spoiling’ me as a child that she made a conscious effort never to give me praise! I do wonder whether that has something to do with my constant niggling desire for validation, or the sense that I’m not quite good enough. But then there is plenty else that’s happened in between that might be responsible for that too… xx

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    1. Yes blogging really is about creating a dialogue isn’t it? I don’t think I would really want to publish publically if I didn’t want to know a little what people think, even if it is negative, it can make you see what you think in a different light. I’m afraid I definitely don’t buy into the ‘not praising’ approach. I never (perceived I) got enough as a child and I really believe that has influenced me up until now. xx

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  3. I like the way you’ve linked being a parent to being a writer and blogger. I praise my kids a lot but I also try to make sure the praise is useful to them, eg ‘I like the way you persisted at that’ rather than ‘you’re such a great kid’. I suppose that goes for blogging and commenting on other people’s writing as well. Like you, I’d feel nervous to write something negative or challenging on someone else’s post. But funnily enough I’ve quite enjoyed it when I’ve written more ‘controversial’ posts and people have piled in to disagree with me!

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    1. I agree about how you praise your children, I think its important for them to understand what you focus on (and the same applies to criticism of them too). I try to do this too; although sometimes it doesn’t quite work like that. I have written what I have considered constructive criticism before in comments and been jumped on so I’m wary now. However I find that even positive comments on my posts can raise issues in my mind that make me see things differently, which I find stimulating, so whatever I get I try to really think about it. Thanks Becky xx

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  4. maddy@writingbubble says:

    Such an interesting post! I’ve seen people referred to as ‘trolls’ on twitter before when all they’ve done is politely point out that they disagree with something/one. It makes me nervous about being honest. I definitely praise my kids – I think praise is so important and I try to make it specific praise about values (“you just helped your brother – that was really kind!”) because I read a book about it and I’ve seen that have more of an effect. I’ve found that pointing out positive stuff makes the boys feel positive, particularly about their relationship to each other. Of course they get far too much negative feedback from me too which I feel guilty about, but I figure, I’m only human! I do think that being positive, spreads positivity too. I once tried an experiment when I was feeling really grumpy of saying nice things to other people – it made me feel so much better! I’m all for saying supportive things if at all possible (which absolutly doesn’t mean there’s no place for disagreement) – I think it makes the world a nicer place. Thanks for linking to #WhatImwriting

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    1. I love the idea of that experiment, I’m not sure I have that much insight when I’m feeling grumpy though! I’m normally the person shouting at their children and thinking inside at exactly the same time – ‘this is crazy, why am I doing this, it’s not helping’ – and yet I can’t stop myself until it’s too late. I need your ‘I’m only human’ approach sometimes, though to stop beating myself up when it goes wrong. You are very right to link feedback and praise to the wider world though, that is very perceptive, it is not just about us as individuals but also the ripple effect of our actions. xx

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