People love to give feedback. Maybe a little too much. But the good news is, you can get decent advice from unlikely sources if you know how to play the game.
The secret is getting crystal clear on what you want to learn and asking very specific questions to find out how you’re doing.
Here’s what that looks like in five simple steps.
Specify who your target customer, listener, or reader is.
Gender, income, existing skill level — whatever you need to get your friends into the mind of your intended audience.
Explain what you want your product, writing or speech to accomplish in the customer’s life.
Always ask for feedback in the explicit context of your goals. If you don’t set the goals, your feedback-givers will choose their own — and hold you to them.
Format questions using the following template: “Do you think (this type of person) would get (this type of result) from my idea?”
“Do you think a single mom who wants to lose weight could make time for my 15-minute home workout routine?”
“Do you think a young man could relate to the insecurities my protagonist is facing?”
“Do you think a beginning guitarist would be able to learn faster with the mnemonic I’ve developed?”
Determine when to ask the questions.
In many cases, you’ll want to tell people what to look for before you present the idea. For example, if you ask novices to critique the presentation you’re practicing, without first directing their focus, get ready for a precise count of how many times you said “um.” Then, when you ask about how well you argued your point, you’ll be greeted with blank stares from an audience who was only listening for one word.
Filter the feedback.
If you’re asking the right questions, you’ll hopefully be getting relevant answers. That said, sometimes you’ll ask great questions and still get a speech from somebody who’s just happy to have a captive audience. But assuming the answers are relevant, here’s how to filter the responses into practical information…
First, ask yourself the question, “Is this feedback about my performance or my potential?”
Example of performance-based feedback: “I thought your speech was a little rambly.”
Example of potential-based feedback: “I don’t think you’re cut out to be a speaker.”
Welcome feedback about your performance; question feedback about your potential.
“Why don’t you think I’m cut out to be a speaker?”
“Well, you said ‘um’ 8 times.”
Bingo. Back to performance-based feedback.
Collecting Feedback Can Be Super Annoying, But It’s Worth It.
Don’t underestimate the power of a fresh perspective, even if it’s uninformed. When you provide clear context, friends can spot things you’re missing and help you reason through riddles where you’ve lost perspective.
One of the biggest benefits of this approach is it gets you thinking about your problems and boiling them down into sentences you’ll share out loud. This seemingly trivial act of synthesizing and vocalizing your own questions can give you tremendous clarity, even if the feedback isn’t helpful.