A college student in a recent public speaking class I was teaching hated me. Hated me a lot. Hated me so much, in fact, that throughout class she pouted, looked downward, and refused to participate. Being a few years older than most of the other students in class, it was great that she was back to school and making a go of it. But she still hated me and probably does to this day.
Why does she hate me? (Funny you ask.)
Because I shared feedback about her presentation to the class that she didn’t like. Didn’t agree with. Didn’t appreciate. Didn’t welcome. And in her mind, didn’t sign up for. The feedback in the class offered by the students and me, in her mind, was for the “younger” students and really shouldn’t apply to her. How do I know this? She told me when I addressed her behavior. (You can’t make this stuff up.)
Feedback (the constructive type) is an important component of a public speaking class. You deliver a presentation, have the audience share their observations both positive and critical, and you deliver a presentation again applying the recommendations. As you practice, you get better, gain more confidence, and apply the learned skills to something important. By the way, life outside of the public speaking classroom works very much the same way. Rinse, repeat.
Of course, when you hear the word feedback, you probably think critical feedback. I do, too. The positive variety is easy — you just accept it and say “thank you.” (Some people actually have a problem accepting positive feedback but that’s a story for another day.)
Here’s the truth. Those that can’t accept feedback (critical, that is) due to ego and esteem issues will face a lot of challenges in life. Whether you’re in a public speaking class, a sales situation, the gym, or any skill related activity, the feedback of others is critical for improvement — given some or all of these guidelines.
1. You must be open.
The student I mentioned was not open. The last thing in the world she ever wants to hear is critical commentary about anything she does. This could be for a variety of reasons but the bottom line is if you’re not open to what others think at least some of the time, you will have a difficult time learning, working well with others, establishing great relationships, and having fun.
2. It must be welcomed.
Welcoming the opinions of others is similar to being open. It just comes down to asking for permission. I observed a few things when you delivered your speech. Are you open to the feedback? Simply asking for permission sets a positive tone and prepares someone for what you have to say. This should be a given if you sign up for a class or work with others that know more than you.