Sometimes even with the purest intentions, the giving or receiving of feedback goes awry. It might happen in a critique group, with a teacher, coach, or friend who gives feedback on your writing.
The hurt can come from the words of the critique, the energy, or the intention. It can be the other person’s stuff, a wound of yours that gets triggered, or a combination. It’s sometimes the product of a shame spiral.
Receiving feedback is such a vulnerable moment. Sharing personal writing can be an opening to the depths of your soul. Your private words may be a threshold you don’t let others cross very often. It’s understandable if past experiences have left hurtful marks.
Whether your feedback comes from a critique partner, friend, or coach, here are some things to consider when you want to receive feedback yet feel wary.
- Reduce misunderstandings.
Specify what type of feedback you’re seeking. Before you share, take some time to ask yourself, in this moment, with this person, what type of feedback would be helpful? It’s important the giver of feedback understands exactly what you want. Is it the content or the details? Are you open to making structural changes? Do you prefer proofreading?
- Build trust.
Take it slow and gentle. Test out the waters. See how it feels to share a little at a time. Does the feedback resonate? If not, can you identify anything that would support you?
- Understand your patterns.
Maybe you prefer not to watch someone reading your work, or need to hide afterwards. If this is true, honor and take care of your needs. Build up some space around the critique to care for and reaffirm yourself.
- Create a foundation of solid communication.
Sincere, honest communication has the power to smooth over many types of conflicts. When you have the trust and safety in the relationship, there can be deeper and more direct communication to solve conflicts around things that are particularly vulnerable. If something didn’t work, can you explain what happened (using “I feel” statements when possible) without getting defensive?
- Know what’s in your domain and what’s not.
How others perceive your writing is not in your control. You are not what others see in your writing.
Finally, remember feedback is part of a cycle of growth. It can be a valuable asset to improvement and growth. It can also help you see things you weren’t aware of. It’s not personal.