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.