Thursday, February 19, 2009

feedback. right, expectation and gift

“I find this to be a remarkably feedback-less world.” It was a passing comment that got me thinking, a moment of frustration in which I found myself nodding.

The importance of feedback – a blog comment, a short and specific comment, a question that shows an active and engaged mind, a story told 3 weeks later. I don’t know how to interpret silence. I tend to interpret it as negativity and disinterest.

It is why I love smaller groups and teaching classes, because I can construct environments in which I get feedback. Feedback allows me to change tack, to clarify and expand, to walk in step with the other.

It is why I struggle with “that was good thanks”, because it’s a meaningless cliche, a polite step on the slippery slope of social irrelevancy.

It is why I struggle with monological preaching – this sense of talking into silence, of lacking the feedback – and why I seek to get engagement in various ways at Opawa.

A caveat here: Open mics simply mean encouragement for extroverts to speak without thinking, and introverts to die inside. So part of the skill is designing feedback that floats across personality types and life experiences – to mix huddles with groups with paper with focus groups with forums with lectures.

Yet I still know that some people hate it. HATE it! Personally, I don’t think a person should be allowed to come to a gathering and just sit. But am I just imposing my “feedback seeking” personality? Or is it that we live in societies and cultures that are actually low in feedback? Perhaps time poor, perhaps bred for passivity, perhaps lacking skills to give feedback well?

What does feedback mean to you? Should it be an expected right or an unexpected gift?

Posted by steve at 12:39 PM


  1. Steve,

    Good post here. One thing I’m learning about myself, which by the way of this comment, I got your emails and am thinking them over; Jeanine is going to help me with your questions from now on, so it may help to round out our covnersation a bit. Anyway, one thing I can’t stand is to send off an email and then a month later be talking to someone and they say, “oh yeah, I got your email a month ago.” Personally, I try and shoot off a quick email (most of the time) just to let folks know I got the message, am thinking about it, etc.

    I think some people, though, in regard to meetings, church services, etc. lend themselves more to a contemplative attitude; there are those who should be allowed to sit, be still, and not respond if they don’t want to. There’s a quote from a Native chief in response to reporters questioning him why he wasn’t speaking in regard to a gift he’d received. He said, “White people think with their minds and the mind has lots of words; we Indians think with our hearts and the heart has no words.” For some, silence is as impacting a response as vocalizing a response.

    And then there’s those folks who SHOULDN’T be able to respond…LOL…but I’ll leave this comment there. Peace friend.


    Comment by Dan Lowe — February 19, 2009 @ 2:35 pm

  2. hmm . . . [the cheeky part of me would want to not comment:) ]

    In previous ruminating about this, i think that feedback loops are inherent in the modern and especially the post-modern psyche. it take a lot of courage to throw something into the void without expecting anything in return. i think that’s why guerilla street art is so fascinating as a counter-cultural movement, as it often requires no feedback.

    but church is now set up for feedback and kpi’s and other measurements. we can’t help it. and there isn’t necessarily anything wrong in it. but the difference is that when we simply offer the priestly care without gratification we realise that we are still doing God’s bidding. The trap for the likes of me is to do ‘God’s’ work in the hope of satisfying my affirmation deficit. and you are right that we should be sensitive to balancing our own desire to see people getting off their arses, and the fact that sometimes the deepest work is taking place—and we’ll often never see it. a person sitting quietly may be just as actively engaged in the discussion.

    i don’t know if the world is any more feedbackless than it has been, i’m not sure how we would measure it. but i do know the world is seeking more and more feedback because that’s all that advertising is.

    Comment by stu — February 19, 2009 @ 2:40 pm

  3. aarrghhhh! where’s my feedback!

    Comment by stu — February 20, 2009 @ 2:16 pm

  4. stu, thought you didn’t need it, as it was simply pandering to advertising and robbing you of your sense of gift.

    does this mean you’re having 2nd thoughts?


    Comment by steve — February 20, 2009 @ 2:25 pm

  5. 🙂

    Comment by stu — February 20, 2009 @ 9:29 pm

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