Last week I attended a weekly workshop that was scheduled to be from 21:30 to 22:30 but for whatever reason it shifted to 22:00 until 23:00. As I pride myself to be in time, I found myself waiting 30 minutes and had to excuse myself as soon as it ended as I had to wake up early. Later I messaged the organiser privately and complained that the unannounced change was “annoying”.
The organiser replied: “I understand that you’re busy, but we’re busy too […] I cannot promise this won’t happen again”.
It was the “we’re busy too” that made me think that my feedback went amiss, because personally I don’t care that they’re busy. I care about the mutual agreement between us to respect each other’s time which I felt has been breached.
So I wrote down my insights on the proper response to a feedback:
Understand what is the problem. Apparently it was important enough for someone to complain about it. Realise the other person think s/he has a reason to complain, whether this reason is real or not. For example, if someone complains about the quality of your product which tend to break, and you know this is the best product in the market, answer that you, too, are annoyed on the rare occasions you find the product faulty and that’s why you’re making the best of efforts to minimises such incidents. Empathy with the other person is the first step in any relationship.
Don’t try to defend yourself. For example – “I may run late but I provide the best workshops in town”. You messed up. Nothing entitles you to mess up. True, some accidents are unavoidable but don’t understate them and say they are meaningless because this is not how the other person perceives them.
Don’t give excuses. I don’t care that you’re busy. I don’t care that you’re up to your neck with whatever. There’s no reason for me to pay for your incompetence in scheduling your life, or inability to prepare yourself properly or anything of that sort. Our interaction is based on a certain expectation and if you fail to deliver – I’m not suppose to be the one who pays for it. Again, accidents happen. Acknowledge them and move on.
Don’t criticise in retaliation. There’s a problem (regardless whether it’s real or not) we are trying to address. By shifting the focus elsewhere won’t make it disappear and won’t make the other person happy. Especially if you’re now blaming him/her. Seriously, it’s just immature.
Think of solutions. were you late due to traffic? be sure to include potential traffic in your schedule.Venue wasn’t ready? make sure to arrive ahead of time to see that it is. Acknowledge there’s a problem and see how you can prevent it from happening again. Actually, there are two levels of solutions – The immediate solution for the problem at hand (this specific workshop) and the solution for future potential occurrences of the problem. The other person found this problem important enough to share his/her concern with you, you can show him respect by sharing your solutions with him to see if they satisfy her/him.
That said, there are few insights on giving a reasonable feedback as well:
Don’t feedback what you don’t know. Don’t infer that one time being late equals to constantly late. Focus your feedback and your own personal experience and your own impression.
Don’t expect compensation. It’s just disrespectful. Your feedback is in order to have better service. Asking for a compensation will shift the focus from the problem elsewhere.
Prefer face-to-face. I know it’s much harder, but people might read your messages in a different tone that you’d expect and might think you’re joking when you’re not and vice-versa.
Accept that not all people receive feedback well. It’s sad, but that’s the truth. Many people prefer to become defensive and avoid acknowledging their own faults. Not much redemption for this folks, so you can accept them as they are (as they won’t change from your feedback) or you can avoid them.