I think this is a really great point to emphasize, not only for the purpose of utility, but also in terms of helping us feel better about receiving criticism on our work. Asking for feedback on something specific gives you more control over the situation. You’ve directed your audience’s attention to where you want it to go, and you’ve taken out some of the uncertainty that makes receiving feedback so scary. Going into a feedback situation blind with no idea as to what the other person is going to say is one of the scarier parts for me. Asking for specific commentary makes me feel like I have greater agency over the situation, which alleviates a lot of my anxiety from the get-go. Great article, Erin!
If there were a single piece of advice I have for new professionals entering the field of librarianship, it would be to develop the skill of giving and receiving criticism. This isn’t something I’ve been able to find in an LIS course catalog, slate of webinar programming, or conference booklet (although it looks like there’s an awesome presentation later this week at !). While we’re not formally educated in the art of critique, library professionals are required to provide and accept feedback in a variety of different situations. For example, we might engage in giving and receiving criticism to and from colleagues, supervisors, and mentees and in other situations (for tenure, during instructional observations, when providing job references, during peer review, annual evaluations, etc.).
10 ways to request — and receive — constructive criticism
Criticism is best received when it is invited, so perhaps we should welcome it more frequently within libraries. Dianna Booher (CEO of Booher Consultants, a Dallas-based communications training firm) recommends starting long-term professional relationships with a frank discussion, asking “Do you intend to make any mistakes over the course of the next three years?” Yes, this is a hilariously absurd line of questioning— of course mistakes will be made! However, a line of conversation in this vein opens the door to a conversation about how the individuals would like to handle criticism and feedback. Would you like to receive feedback in-person? How often? Over email? At the end or beginning of the day? Using humor to lighten the tone of this important dialogue will decrease anxiety and help both parties feel more relaxed moving forward. It is a strategy that would be ideal for new librarians, interns, or graduate assistants, in order to start developing their emotional intelligence and ability to give and receive criticism.