Monday, February 11, 2019

Feedback is vital – even when things are going well

If you’re like me, you read reviews on sites like TripAdvisor and Amazon before you buy.

But how many times do leave reviews yourself? For systems like this to work it’s important for everyone to give feedback, especially positive feedback. The same applies to choirs and singing.

why I don’t give feedback often enough

I rarely leave reviews on websites. When I do they tend to be negative. It’s only when I’ve had a bad experience that I take the time to let people know. The outrage I feel energises me to bother to write.

But the warm glow of satisfaction doesn’t motivate me as strongly. Even though I rely on feedback from others, I hardly ever leave good reviews myself.

Partly it’s because I’m a cynical, twisted, angry person inside (just kidding!). Partly it’s because it’s easier to feedback critically. Praise seems to have a limited vocabulary: ‘nice’, ‘lovely’, ‘great’, ‘wonderful’.

However, it’s not fair and not equal that I use these feedback systems but don’t contribute myself.

The same applies to choirs, rehearsals, singing, workshops and so on.

feedback in choirs and singing workshops

For someone to be able to lead a choir or teach singing effectively, they need to know what works and what doesn’t.

If a choir leader, singing teacher or workshop leader is good, then things go swimmingly most of the time. Singers get used to the high standards they have set.

If something does go wrong from time to time, it therefore becomes very noticeable. Because it’s out of the ordinary, that’s the time when singers may give feedback.

It’s as if they’ve been jolted out of their comfortable existence. Something’s gone wrong and they want to let you know.

But it’s just as important to let people know when things are going right.

As I’ve written before: A little praise goes a long way for both singers AND choir leaders

Choir leaders (and bloggers!) are just as vulnerable as singers. If they’re worth their salt, they are constantly reflecting on their practice and can be self-critical. If they don’t receive feedback they can fill that silence with their own doubts and fears.

sometimes it’s hard to give feedback

Even though the feedback may be negative (“I’m really struggling”, “I don’t understand your explanation”, “I’m a bit lost”), it can be hard to give.

Individual singers can be afraid of drawing attention to themselves in case they’re the only one with the problem. But, as I’ve written before, you must Tell your choir leader what you’re struggling with, otherwise they can’t help you

feedback fatigue

These days it’s as if we’re living in that Black Mirror episode where everyone is chasing ‘Likes’ (it’s actually beginning to happen for real in China: a person’s status in society is affected by the amount of positive feedback they get).

Everyone is obsessed by feedback. Every time I buy something or use a service, I get a follow-up email asking me to rate them.

It can be easy to develop feedback fatigue. That makes us more reluctant to give feedback at all.

For leaders who want feedback, the secret is to not ask too often, and not to ask singers to commit too much time to the task (see Using feedback forms for choirs and singing workshops). We all know what a turn-off it is to come across a feedback form that is pages and pages long asking us to rate things out of 10.

For singers, bear in mind that feedback in choirs, workshops and singing lessons is dynamic. It’s not like the ratings of products that you’re asked to give. It affects the process in the here and now.

Giving feedback is part of the to and fro between teacher and singer. It’s how both parties learn and develop.

other posts on feedback

Here are two more posts on feedback that might be of interest:

Why feedback is important when teaching and learning songs

What kind of feedback do you want?

feedback applies to this blog too!

I’d love to hear what you think about this post (and my blog in general).

My self-critical mind fills the silence with negativity: “maybe nobody is reading”, “they don’t like what I write”, “nobody understands what I’m trying to say”.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say when you give feedback. But if you like what I write, that’s all you need: “I enjoy reading your blog”!

Thank you.

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Chris Rowbury



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Chris Rowbury


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