The Laughing Toastmaster: Confessions of a Feedback Phobic

I’m fed up and not taking it anymore! Next time someone asks ‘Can I give you some feedback?’ I’ll respond ‘You could… but I’d rather eat nails’. It will be less painful than listening to a smug-know-it-all tell me things I already know, without offering any solution.
  • ‘Your ending is weak… maybe work on your ending?’ Oh! Really? I was working on my fourth Gin & Tonic…
  • ‘Try changing your objectives to something more objective.’ How insightful!

Yes, I’m a self-confessed Feedback-Phobic (FP for short), a holder of terrible condition that can affect anyone trying to speak in public. Symptoms include shortness of breath, racing heart, sense of terror or impending doom when in the presence of a ‘feedback provider’.

Like many FP sufferers, I kept my condition hidden, afraid of being ridiculed and labelled a ‘weaker speaker’. It was only when I joined Toastmasters that I realized it wasn’t my fault, but that outside our organization, most feedback providers don’t have a clue!

Sonia doesn't welcome feedback

A Scream from Screen

The word ‘feedback’ is defined as ‘information used as a basis for improvement’. Improvement? If anyone really wants to help… learn the Toastmaster CRC method. Otherwise please shut up, because the only feedback I need is my grandma’s who says I’m the best speaker EVER (and she doesn’t even speak English).

Of course, the zoom-room situation hasn’t helped, as it provides harsher feedback than the savagely scary Simon Cowell on Britain’s Got Talent.

I’ll start with ‘Audience Contribution’ feedback (AC), which comes in two basic forms:

  • POSITIVE – audience on screen are inspired! Engaged! They love my speech!
  • NEGATIVE – people frown and look at me as if I’m explaining triple integrals. I’m not. Triple integrals are not inspirational. Except when you try to solve them and then I’m inspired to drink… but that’s another story.

Then there is ‘Drop-Call’ feedback (also known as DC), which is when everyone starts to click ‘LEAVE MEETING’, claiming broadband issues.

NOTE: AC/DC follow each other in case of a negative AC.

Outside of zoom-room-doom-gloom we face situations where so called ‘constructive feedback’ quickly turns in to ‘careless, confusing criticism’.

Lodge a Hodgepodge

Take the ‘Sandwich’ technique, which wraps negative feedback in praise. This is usually provided by people who hold a management position and have taken a course on how best to give annual appraisals without getting a black eye.

Poo Sandwich’ is an offshoot of ‘Sandwich’ except there’s no cushion, just brutal excrement, as when the last event organizer said, ‘Your inspirational speech inspired people… to fall asleep. Why did you leave your day job?’ Not even a dozen Andrex toilet rolls complete with cute puppies can clean up that mess. And for the record, I didn’t leave my day job, my day job left me. It was a redundancy affair.

Then there’s ‘Pity’ feedback, which is self-explanatory and occurs when a sympathetic person catches me at the bar drowning my sorrows ‘Sniff, sniff, I’m a failure’.

  • ‘Your voice projected well…’ Thanks. It’s called a microphone.
  • ‘It’s getting there …’ Universal speak for ’It’s getting nowhere’  

Finally, there is ‘Handheld’ feedback. This is when a more experienced speaker watches your performance and provides you with a dedicated ‘one to one’. I got very good advice, although I wasn’t too keen on holding hands while listening to all the information.

CRC for Advisee

Don’t get me wrong, I have gotten some great feedback. The problem is it seems you can’t get positive feedback without getting a barrage of negatives, with no suggestions as to how to improve.

Exception is Toastmasters, where feedback is an art form. We not only have the best technique (CRC – Commend, Recommend, Commend), but evaluations are so important that we have evaluators evaluating the evaluators! That’s what I call justice!

Thanks to our organization, I am slowly recovering from Feedback Phobia.

Now if anyone asks, ‘Can I give you some feedback?’, I’ll say, ‘You can… but only if you’re a Toastmaster’.

——— Sonia Aste, Riverside Communicators Club
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