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How to Give, Receive, and Request Feedback

How to FeedbackDance feedback is like hugs. Everybody needs them, but no one will admit to it, and it can get awkward to ask.

Every human needs feedback in their life. You need answers to questions, you need to know your score on a test, you need to guage their reaction to that birthday gift, you need to watch the spedometer to make sure you’re not speeding, you need to see if the ball you kicked went in the goal. And we all know you can’t learn this dance properly off of YouTube – you need feedback to feel it.

In a social dance setting, most (hopefully) dancers are working on some “homework” they got either from the group class that just ended, or the last private lesson they had with their instructor. Could be an old habit they’re trying to reform, or a new skill they’re dying to master. A bit of feedback on their attempts sure would be helpful. But from where?

The social norm is that it is considered inappropriate to offer feedback on the social dance floor. This is to prevent unsolicited advice offered by some non-teachers who feel the need to boost their own ego under the guise of “just trying to help”.  Not generalizing all social dancers here, but it is unfortunately much more common an occurrence than it appears. This kind of feedback is unwelcome and can be quite damaging to newbie dancers who don’t know how to stand up for themselves. Just to make sure the point is clear: dancers who offer unsolicited feedback on the social floor should be issued a ticket and a fine. Indulging your impulse to “help” is not worth the social ostracism that will ensue. But it doesn’t mean that all feedback is bad.

criticism-cartoon-1Teachers should be the primary, ideal source for feedback. But there are some circumstances that encourage and promote feedback between peers:

  • Group of friends meet up to practice together.
  • Guided practice session, led by a teacher
  • Social dancing within a workshop

In these cases, it is not the teachers providing most of the feedback – students rely on each other to offer feedback on their application of the “homework”. Hopefully their teacher has given them some “do’s and don’ts” about how the move or skill should be practiced. But students can’t be expected to be expert evaluators and advisors on the new skill. Feedback is not an evaluation, simply a response to a trial. This makes the feedback task a little less daunting, but this is not a reason to treat it causally.

Here are some guidelines to negotiate the delicate art of requesting, giving, and receiving feedback.

Requesting Feedback

  • Don’t request feedback from every single partner.
  • Do request feedback from all levels of partners. Your goal is to figure out what works with each person, so everyone’s feedback is valuable.
  • Feedback is not an evaluation.
  • You choose what kind of feedback you request.
  • Ask your partner first if they mind giving you feedback.
  • Request feedback in advance. Don’t wait till the end.
  • Don’t demand feedback or impede someone from moving on to a new partner. You won’t make any friends.
  • You can occasionally request for quick bits of feedback during a dance. Be specific. General comments don’t help anyone.
  • Ask for their personal preferences so you can note the similarities and differences.
  • Ask your teacher before the dance starts, not after, if they mind giving you feedback. They are usually focused on having fun, not critiquing.
  • Don’t ask other teachers for feedback – unless you are asking to book a lesson.

Asking/Receiving Tip

✓✓   Do Say  ✓✓

✗  Don’t Say 

Ask a specific question, don’t ask for a
general evaluation

“Do you feel I gave you enough
support in that dip?”

“Any feedback?”

Ask them in advance to signal you
when/if they notice a particular error.

“Can you please tell me if I grip
your fingers too much?

After the song is over: “How were my fingers?”

Ask for personal preferences

“Do you prefer a stronger push
here?”

“How hard am I supposed to push?”

Ask for a quick check-in during a
dance, not a long-answer question.

“Am I giving you enough
elasticity?”

“So how does this ‘stretch’ thing work?”

Teachers are not automatically
critiquing you. Don’t troll for freebies.

Before a dance: “Would you
mind checking my _______?”

And the end: “Can you give me any pointers?”

Request an experienced partner to
give you specific opportunities.

To an experienced
dancer: “I’m working on spinning. Would
you
mind giving me a bunch of spin moves?”

To a beginner dancer: “Spin me more!”

Giving Feedback

  • Never give unsolicited feedback.
  • Wait to be invited before commenting.
  • Not every dance needs to include feedback. It’s ok to decline a request for feedback.
  • Assume that everyone is doing the best they can.
  • Check yourself first: never assume the other person is the sole cause of the problem.
  • Remove yourselves and have a private conversation.
  • Giving feedback is an act of caring. Do it caringly.
  • Be courteous, tactful, and mature.
  • Small doses: 1-3 points, no longer than one extra song.

Feedback Tip

✓✓   Do Say  ✓✓

  Don’t Say   

Use “I” messages

“I’m not feeling where you want me to go”

“You’re not leading it properly”

Focus on the skill or body part, not the person

“I feel alot of tension in your arm”

“You’re too heavy”

Avoid commands

“Oops, need more room please!”

“Get out of my slot!”

Use specific examples, if possible

“When I catch your back on the whips,
I need you to keep going back into my connection”

“Your whip doesn’t feel right”

Don’t exaggerate

“Once in a while I feel pulled out of my anchor”

“You never let me anchor”

Make a request:

“Can you give me more compression here, please?”

“You’re too squishy!”

Avoid “don’ts”

“Remember your frame!”

“Don’t break your frame!”

Be constructive, not critical

“I think it might work better if you move your hand higher”

“Your hand is too low”

Don’t teach; refer to a teacher

“That sounds like a great question to ask my teacher.”

“That’s not right- let me show you how to do it”

Receiving Feedback

  • Be open minded, calm, and mature.
  • Receiving feedback is an act of caring. By being open, you show you care to improve.
  • Clarify points without being defensive.
  • Keep in mind you do not necessarily have to do anything with their feedback.
  • Say when your feedback bucket is “full”.
  • Listen completely before responding.
  • Thank the person for their comments.

 

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions” – Ken Blanchard

 

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2 Responses to “How to Give, Receive, and Request Feedback”

  1. I love all feed back and love the article

  2. Great article! Thanks so much – I will be sharing it with my students 🙂

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