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Chapter 6. Types of Critical Feedback

There are basically three types of critical feedback that we experience: (1) Valid, bona fide, critical feedback, (2) Unjustified, or invalid critical feedback, and (3) critical feedback that is vague or is simply a difference of opinion.

  1. VALID Critical Feedback is in some ways the most difficult type of feedback for us to handle, because at some point we have to admit it is just. However, one tendency in responding to valid feedback is to exaggerate it, to make it more important than it really is. We must recognize that we all make mistakes. We need to accept ourselves even when we do make mistakes. It is helpful to keep in mind that the more active and fruitful our lives, the more likely we will be to make some mistakes and, hence, to receive critical feedback. Avoiding action simply to avoid the risk of making mistakes is a cowardly and unproductive alternative.

  2. UNJUSTIFIED Critical Feedback, or invalid critical feedback may come as a result of our not living up to someone else’s fantasy. Often, people do not communicate their expectations of us; thus, we are vulnerable to disappointing them. But this is their issue, not ours. Moreover, for critical feedback to be genuinely helpful, it must be expressed in specific, concrete terms, so that we can understand the expectations and take appropriate action if we so choose.

    Dr. Hendrie Weisinger, author of Nobody’s Perfect (Statford Press, 1981) suggests asking yourself several questions to determine whether critical feedback is valid or invalid:

    • Do I hear the same feedback from more than one person?

    • Does the critic know a great deal about the subject?

    • Are the critic’s standards known and reasonable?

    • Is the critical feedback really about me? Or is the critic merely having a bad day or upset about something else?

    • How important is it for me to respond to the critical feedback?

    If you respond positively to one or more of the first four questions, the critical feedback may be valid. If you responded negatively to most of the questions, the feedback is likely to be invalid.

  3. The third type is VAGUE Critical Feedback or feedback that may simply indicate a difference of opinion. In this type of feedback, the critic is often someone who thinks his/her values and methods of doing something are better or more valid than yours. Critical feedback of this kind may act as an effective cover for the critic’s more deeply held feelings such as jealousy, fear of the unknown, insecurity, or arrogance. But it is important for us to address this type of feedback as well as the other types, because our critic may have legitimate feelings that need to be worked out. In short, this sort of critical feedback may suggest more about our critic than it does about us.



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