Make Room For The Stuttering

On Feedback

Posted on: January 28, 2010

Feedback is a gift. Good or bad, we need it from other people. We need to know how other people are thinking or feeling. We need feedback to understand certain situations, to figure out how to do new things or to know if we are on the same page. We need feedback to validate ourselves. We may think we don’t – that we don’t need anybody, that we are a rock, an island – but in fact, we all do at some time.

Some of us have a hard time receiving feedback. I always felt uncomfortable hearing negative feedback, or “constructive criticism” as it is oft called. If I was criticized, I always had a tendency to take it to heart and to think of myself as a bad person or that I had failed in some way. Even minor criticism could bring tears to my eyes. Still does, some times. I tend to be too hard on myself.

I have been much better at receiving and giving feedback over the last several years, as I began to let it in and allow myself to actually feel the emotions that comes with feedback. For not only did I have trouble accepting negative feedback, but I had the same trouble receiving positive feedback. I never thought I deserved praise or compliments. Much of that goes back to my childhood, when I really only got negative feedback and grew up thinking I was bad, flawed, inferior. It takes a long time to break away from internalizing bad stuff. These days, I can and do allow positive feedback in, but very often it still brings me to tears, because it is so new and parts of me still doesn’t quite believe I deserve it.

I gave a speech last night to my Toastmasters club on how to give feedback and quality evaluations. People have a hard time doing this. I asked the audience to come up with some of the reasons why people struggle with offering feedback. We sometimes feel unqualified, we might be afraid of hurting the speaker’s feelings, or we worry that being honest will not be encouraging for the speaker. When I first joined Toastmasters, I never would have guessed that some three years later I would feel comfortable enough to share some advice on how to offer feedback.

Everybody thought I did a good job. I got a good evaluation from a veteran Toastmaster. He did remind me that I shouldn’t have concluded by saying “thanks”. The audience should have thanked me. I know that – I have shared that with other people. I felt good after hearing positive feedback.

The person who served as grammarian reported that there were a few filler words during the evening, and that some of us repeated some words. He specifically commented that I had repeated several words – “Toastmaster, Toastmaster”, “feedback, feedback”, “language, language”, “chose, chose”.

Guess what I immediately thought as I heard this? Did I stutter on those words? He doesn’t know I stutter. He is a second-time visitor from another club. Did I really do whole word repetitions like that? Was it obvious enough that he felt he needed to take note of it like he did? Amazingly, I let his 15-second report make me second guess how good I had felt about nailing my speech and sharing something valuable with the group.

I even found myself wondering as I left: “Hmmmm, I wonder if any of the regulars in my club will go up to him and let him know I stutter? I think its possible someone might have felt obliged to do that. I hoped no one did. I don’t want to be “judged” any differently than any other person taking a risk and giving a Toastmaster’s speech. I want to be able to take feedback in the spirit it is meant. To help us be aware of things we may want to work on or improve or just be aware of.

What do you think about feedback? How do you receive it? Do you think it was OK for me to ponder what he said the way I did? Or am I just way too sensitive to my stuttering?

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6 Responses to "On Feedback"

You are sensitive to your stuttering and I beleive we all are. You do not want to be critiqued any differently from someone who does not stutter, but the reality is, this probably is too much to ask for, becasue the fact is you do stutter and therefore will have some vulnerable moments in this regard.

I respond to feedback in very much the same way you do, constructive or otherwise and crave for validation so much and this I beleive, is because I have struggled with being inferior all my life.

I hope I will get to the point one day, when I will be secure with who I am so much so, that I will be able to respond approriately to feedback, in the context that they are given.

Congrats on the speech Pam.

Hi Pam

Very interesting topic, as you know I am a Toastmaster for a few years now and I have learned to give and receive and coach through Toastmasters. The skills I learned there are invaluable – the sandwich effect, giving positive, something to work on, and always ending on a positive note.

That works in theory.. 🙂 however as a fellow stammerer I am incredibly sensitive to feedback and really have to ‘mull’ it over for a while and then decide whether to accept it or just bin the feedback. I did this recently after failing an exam and learned so much from the experience. For me there is a real difference too between verbal and written feedback , seeing things written down about you good or bad has a real affect on your mind. Going back to my recent experience of failing an exam and receiving written feedback, I finally came out the other side and accepted some of it and the rest I just binned it.. but I guess the memory of will fade away in time but what I really liked from the experience is I realised, only me , myself I REALLY knows what goes on in my head and what others think is not as important, because its just a perception of me. I know what I have and go through every day in my life and came to the conclusion that I am happy with myself and trust in my instinct and my heart and to me that’s more important to be at peace with yourself.

I was notorious for giving myself a hard time over a speaking situation, did I do all the right things I was taught but over time, I have learned its better to give yourself feedback too, pat yourself on the back for what you did do right and less of the self battering is more fruitful.

I hope I haven’t deviated too much from the point as I often do but thanks Pam for posting this, it has helped me .

Continue your good work and I hope to meet you soon

Sheila xx

Thanks Sheila. We Toastmasters who also stutter can certainly understand the pressure we feel when trying to “measure up” just like everyone else in the club.
I appreciate your thoughts – I tend to obsess over things when I really should just let them go. But I am getting better at it, and I am able to occassionally pat myself on the back. That is huge for me.
I do hope we meet. I will be visiting the UK for the first time at the end of March – so we should definitely plan to meet or visit. I am going to stay with Lisa, who lives outside of London, so there should be no reason why we don’t. It will be “smashing” to meet you.

Thanks Annetta. Sometimes I feel a little silly for writing about moments, but its these moments that often define our lives, and I see more and more that many of us share these very same moments. So its good to write about my thoughts and feelings and know that others “get it”.
I hope to someday really reach the point where I can just let feedback in – good or bad – and just feel it and then let it go gently, and in turn be gentle to myself.
But like you, sometimes I crave hearing something good, and just being validated for who I am, and who I BE.

I hadn’t realized before, but, yeah, the times I have the most trouble receiving negative feedback are also the times I have trouble accepting positive feedback. You need to accept emotions either way. Good insight!

It helps to have experience on both sides of the table. Sometimes the type of feedback you get has more to do with the person giving the feedback than with your presentation.

I used to try too hard to listen to, understand and act on all advice, sometimes to the detriment of my own vision. I still try to understand it, but I’m more comfortable saying, “Difference of vision.”

When I trust the person giving feedback it’s easier to open up. I trust my singing teacher’s vision as much or more than my own, and her ability to help me reach it. It’s important to trust her when she says, “Stop sounding like a little girl.” She clearly works hard to describe the problems in terms I can understand, and comes up with several ways to try to overcome them.

Not end by saying, “Thanks.” Eeps! I’ve fallen into that habit at the end of a performance. It feels right, but you’re right, the audience should be thanking me!

Hearing I made a mistake I’ve made before used to bother me. Can’t I learn to do it right? Nowdays I shrug it off with “bad day” and “But look at how much I got right!”

It was okay to ponder what he said, but you won’t know the truth without asking. Are some of your group aware of the difference? That way, you could work on the right problem. It’s good to get both types of feedback because you talk to both types of audience.

Pam, I usually read the posts and don’t get around to commenting because I don’t have that much patience on the computer. But, I couldn’t let this go. Of course, I was there at your speech and you were clearly awesome. You put all of your skills into the talk and we all learned and gained from it.

When the evaluator commented about the double words, my first thought was, “I don’t remember that at all”, and my 2nd thought was, “Maybe she stuttered on those words”. Honestly, I didn’t hear it. If it was a regular member of the club, I might have said something to him/her afterward, but since he was from a different club, it slipped right by me.

Of course, I understand how you can obsess on the one “negative” comment (you know how insecure I am :)), but really, when the rest of the 20 people give you tons of positives, you know you how you did. As I like to say, you should really be proud of yourself! Your 35 or so speeches get better every time! And again, you are my inspiration!

Just a funny aside…I think it was really funny that you didn’t get any comments on your post about your dinner with us. The girls must have really loved it, because they were so quiet for a long time! It was great for my kids and me, and I really appreciate you coming.

Thanks!

Shayna

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