Giving feedback – The CAMEL – DONKEY syndrome !

उश्त्रनाम विवाहेशु गीतं गायन्ति गर्दाबाहा!

परस्परं प्र्शम्संती

अहो रूपम ! अहो ध्वनि !

This is a song in Sanskrit which means….

When camels get married, donkeys sing songs

They praise each other with the donkeys saying ” What a beauty you are !”

and the camels returning the compliment –‘What a melodious voice you have !”

Mutual Delusion at best but not feedback ! I call this the C-D syndrome ! It is easy to flatter but very difficult to give genuine praise ! It is even more difficult to accept critical feedback !

I learnt a bitter lesson some years ago in a Toastmasters club. A speaker was attempting Project 9 ( Persuade with Power) and I was his evaluator. He specifically wanted me to “give it to him” by means of a critical feedback. In my evaluation, I dutifully made a note of points requiring improvement. The General Evaluator too endorsed my evaluation. Somehow, the speaker was not happy and confessed that he would never want me as an evaluator again !

I was puzzled and then it dawned upon me that he actually expected me to say – ‘ The speaker had asked me to give critical feedback. I tried my best but the speech was so good, I could not find any area for improvement !”

On the contrary, I have many of my mentees seeking detailed feedback even after their evaluators have cleared them to the next project. I only give my honest feedback if the speaker has an open mind !

Here are some quips on feedback that i came across recently ..

  • At a party, Bernard Shaw was asked by the hostess about a violinist who was performing with great zeal. ‘ He reminds me of Beethoven”, said Shaw. The hostess exclaimed ” But Beethoven was not a violinist !”. “ Neither is this gentleman !” replied Shaw.
  • A young soprano was trying her best to get an endorsement from a critic after her performance and asked “Don’t you think my performance was good ?” The critic replied with tact ” Good is not the word, my dear !”
  • And Lord Gladstone is supposed to have told a political opponent ‘ I never forget a face but in your case I am willing to make an exception !!”
  • And my favourite – ” Your speech was both good and original ! But the part that was good was not original and the part that was original was not good !

Uncharitable. Mean. Brutal. In Toastmasters, we will never do this and demolish some one’s ego but how I wish we graduate from giving those goody goody sandwich feedback and upgrade to specific feedback that will help the speaker improve ! – atleast after project three !

Before signing off, here’s a deft definition – TACT – Tongue in check !

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