Knowing what to make of feedback

Last night I had the pleasure of getting some good friends together to share something really important: feedback. A friend of friend is building a one man show, and performing it to small groups.

His name is Sean. After the hour-long monologue,  Sean then asks questions, like:

What’s stands out?

What do you think the point is?


The conversations warms up and people’s ideas flow. I am impressed with how Sean drills for follow up–it’s not easy taking an hour of enthusiastic picking apart of your personal performance by strangers. In the cover image for this blog post, you can see his expression as “volunteer number nineteen” takes the mic to share more feedback–he’s observing not acting.

Take away 1: don’t take it personal

Particularly with my book, which is a personal journal of sorts, I’m getting–and seeking–a lot of feedback. Much of it is good but certainly not all. He set me a great example of how to probe and pull out without offering excuse, rationale or defense.

Take away 2: feedback scales parameters, not decisions

As we straighten up after folks leave, I share some of my feedback with Sean. He’s still open to it by the way (3 hours in now: impressive)! He offers feedback is falling into a couple of camps and I’m on the side of an “unknown visionary” who’s coaching him–his other coach, a proven Broadway director, sees a different direction for the show.

In the big fishing exercise of seeking feedback, I can see his own quest much more easily than I can my own. I realize the fractured feedback he’s getting could be one way of making a decision about direction–go with the majority vote, so to speak. Another approach is to use feedback to “break out” of your own box and see a bigger picture. That way, choice remains with you, the “actor” in your own play. With lots of feedback, you’re setting the largest possibly stage for your performance.