When Feedback Isn’t Elegant

Don’t Dismiss Corrective Feedback When the Packaging Doesn’t Meet Your Expectations…Decide to Grow

Feedback.  It’s the thing we want.  But if we are honest, we don’t like feedback.  At least the feedback that we haven’t crafted to meet our social-emotional needs of the day.

If we are most honest, we want the feedback in a certain way.  We emotionally need it to be packaged between how awesome we are, the one thing that needs to be approved, and then a tail of awesome.  The truth about the sandwich method is that we want thinly sliced deli meat between two large slices of warm challah bread straight from the baker’s oven.  No one wants the doubledecker sandwich of feedback.

We want to be awesome.  We want corrective feedback heavy in compassion in consideration of our personal circumstances and the hug we need. My mother would say…” you don’t get your hug and true feedback from the same place. Your soft place is your soft place”. Go where you can grow.

Most of us can attest to the fact that the best feedback probably occurred in a way far from elegant.  It was not warm nor fuzzy.  It was raw and honest.

Behavior Analysts appreciate raw data so we can see the realness of the experience.  Yet, this tolerance of raw is not shaped around communication, feedback, tolerance to personal styles of communication of others, nor do we always appreciate corrective feedback that is open and honest.  We want a hug…a sandwich method.  Yet, most people who are giving the best information don’t make time for the sandwich…they tell you.

And because the package was not what we want, we miss the message.  We miss the message because we accuse the deliverer’s communication style of being harsh.  We then discuss how the feedback didn’t align with the latest presentation on supervision and communication.  The presentation that provides information without context….your context. Context matters. It matters so much, there should be a disclaimer when roleplays and situations are discussed in behavior analytic workshops and conferences. But…maybe it is discussed and we don’t hear the disclaimer…because we like our packages (hmmm).

A bit of perspective…most feedback to help you grow will feel like you are a seed in the hands of a master gardener.  The gardener is focused on growth and beauty…they will do what is necessary to bring the vision to fruition.  The gardener understands that not all the seeds will grow, yet he puts in the work…and waits for the one(s) that will grow into the beauty from the work.  Seeds-You will be watered, planted, readjusted, manipulated for growth, observed. I’m sure we have all encountered parents who yell, supervisors who sigh, supervisees who whine, and clients who present with less than optimal behavior towards us within our sessions. That’s unpretty feedback. Decipher it…Ask Better Questions…Learn From it…Grow.

Here’s to those who saw more in me than I saw in myself and their feedback pulled weeds, added fertilizer, and tended to me in ways that made me (at times uncomfortable) because of the enormity of the tasks they put before me.

  • Mrs. Ibom (high school teacher)- who made me create lessons to teach my fellow peers in U.S. History class…because she saw the speaker in me.
  • Robert Seals (my dad) – who made me see each moment as a new opportunity that I authored.  Who told me “Don’t get angry.  Get smarter”
  • Mrs. Mulhern – who crossed off my thoughts and elementary statements in reports and taught me to be a master report writer.
  • Teresa Cherry Cruz (SLP) – who taught me that no one should hear what “I think” in an IEP meeting…because I matter less…data matters more.  Bring the data.  Data is like money…it is green and has currency…every time.
  • Dr. Wayne Holland – who in high-pressure situations, sits back and remarks about the fun he’s having. 

These people provided the ‘straight talk for straight understanding’ essential to my growth personally and professionally. Their corrective feedback was more invested in my potential and well-being and was not the warm fuzzy that many people expect to get. There was little verbal hugging or hand-holding.

They guided me.  And once I showed investment and my skin grew…they then became my colleagues…and later friends. 

The point is…the care we want in feedback doesn’t have to present itself.  The point of feedback is to get it…learn from it…throw out what doesn’t fit nor feel right (but ask yourself why)…and then file it so that we can pull it when needed.  It’s not always pretty and quite frankly…gardening is messy-muddy but when the seed is positioned just right, the beauty grows and is seen by all who encounter it. 

Consider that feedback will be what it is.  The package will not always have beauty…but the results of the time-investment of both the gardener and the seed will undoubtedly result in a final product.  While the gardener needs to learn to master the art of growing and grooming the specific-individual flower; the seed too has a responsibility to trust that the experienced gardener may see something he/she/they do not in the moment. 

In order to grow a profession of people who are

  • Resilient
  • Clear communicators
  • Honest
  • Humble about their abilities
  • Challenged to grow
  • Authentic in interactions
  • Better Listeners
  • Respect sameness and differences

...we have to BE this and Give them opportunities to BECOME.

Let’s Reimagine and Grow!

~Landria Seals Green,MA., CCC-SLP, BCBA

photo credit: Photo by Malorie Hibon on Unsplash

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