How to give and receive feedback

Last Tuesday, in our workshop, we talked about giving and receiving feedback. 

As a writing group, we believe that receiving feedback is one of the fundamental skills of being a writer, especially if you want to share your writing in the group. It is through feedback that we learn and improve. For the writer, it is best to remember that the feedback isn’t a personal attack; it’s just someone trying to help you. 

As listeners, we understand our writers invest a lot of work and emotion into their writing and we appreciate it is natural to have an emotional reaction to getting feedback. So how do we deal with this delicate situation? 

Two of our members are public speakers and they suggested a way of beginning and ending the feedback with something the listener loved about what we just heard. They also suggested that the listener limits comments to a maximum of three points. It is not our job to rewrite the piece. It is better to just comment on things that didn’t feel right. Call these ‘bumps in the road’. Maybe it is a word, or a phrase, or an incident that took us out of our ‘fictive dream’.

We recommend the writer make notes. That way, it is possible to process the comments after the workshop and allow the writer to put distance between the feedback and their emotions, offering a chance to cool off and look objectively at what the listeners offered. So, if a comment doesn’t resonate with the writer, then it’s right to discard it and stay true to their stylistic preferences.

And last, sometimes what we hear might inspire us to write something of our own and, in that case, it’s generous to acknowledge our inspiration.

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