Thought: what type of feedback do you want?


I’ve been busy over the last two weeks because I had an important presentation of my paper at work. It was the first time I present my research to collegues so I was trying to prepare with my best.

The presentation went smooth, I got everyone’s attention for 90 min, they were a lot of questions and discussions, maybe time among the audience. So at least I can say, I got them interested in the topic. After that, I got two emails from colleagues congratulating me about the presentation, that they really enjoyed it and found the findings interesting. And then two senior economists told me good job on the hallway.

I should be happy about getting positive feedbacks, right? Instead… I wonder do they just say that to be nice? or they really meant it.  I want to say that no matter they meant it or not, I appreciate the gesture because they didn’t have to. I also want point out that I’m a very confident person and I got the feeling that it went well. However, it made me think how should I react in the future to colleagues or friends’ presentations/works? Should I always show the gesture even I don’t mean it just to be kind? Is it the rule of the game at a professional environment?

Few weeks ago I attended a friend’s presentation and it was bad!!! I didn’t like the topic, I didn’t like the way he presented it, I didn’t think he responded well the questions the audience raised. As a friend, I couldn’t lie to him that he did a good job. It’s against my principle to do that, it’s too hypocrite. I didn’t want to tell him my real thoughts either because I might hurt his feelings. Afterwards, I asked a colleague/friend how should I manage this situation? and he told that never ever say it was bad. Really? never ever? even it’s a close friend of you?

I’m confused.

From one hand, it is true that nobody likes to hear criticism. No matter how you tell him/her, he/she will feel bad.

From the other hand, if everyone acts like this, I’d never know how to improve? And that’s not really helpful. I would like my friends to tell me what I did wrong and how I can improve it, that’s why they’re my friends. And also when you know that your friends tell the truth, you can believe them when they say you did well. Isn’t it?

Am I the only concern about this issue? Am I thinking too much? Should I just follow the trend and tell what people wants to hear?

Or maybe there’s a third way…. tell the criticism as a suggestion, and then tell him/her how he/she can improve it. That’s called constructive criticism. One senior person in my division gave me great comments (not criticism) about my paper, and I benefit so much from it. I learn where I can improve on, why I should and how I do it! I think maybe this is the answer! Only give comments and suggestions when they could help the other person to improve, not just give criticism that for sure make the other person feel bad.

What do you think?

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