An ideal member in a society is expected to provide feedback in order to allow their thoughts to play a constructive role in shaping the society. Furthermore, when one is aware of the benefits of providing criticism, it is assumed that one also knows how to receive feedback and utilize it for the sake of improvement. In reality, however, this seems to be difficult to achieve since feedback is given and taken in as criticism. So, why does feedback transform into criticism?
According to the Merriam-Webster definition of “criticism,” it can be understood as having the intention “to consider the merits and demerits of and judge accordingly” or to “evaluate” or “to find fault with” or “point out the faults of” a particular person or an action or event. On the other hand, “feedback is defined as ”the transmission of evaluative or corrective information about an action, event, or process to the original or controlling source.“ Just by comparing the two definitions, we can see that there is a major difference. The words ”judging“ and ”finding fault“ stand out as the dividing line that distinguishes feedback from criticism. When one criticizes, the intention is to blame others while the intention of someone who provides feedback is to simply describe one’s observation and feelings but not necessarily insisting that they must agree. This is probably why people become angry or feel depressed, or resent those who criticize them. What is worse, those who are criticized create a vicious cycle in which they try to find the weak point of those who criticized them so that they can take revenge.
Often times, I have seen feedback metamorphosing into criticism as a result of people’s lack of experience in both giving and receiving feedback. Also, in Korea, there are factors such as age and collectivist thoughts that act as natural monitors that censor freedom of speech in the name of “politeness.” When a society is deprived of constructive interaction during which people share their thoughts freely, it is inevitable that the its advancement is delayed.
Next time you are in a situation in which you are expected to provide feedback, ask yourself these questions: What is my intention? Am I trying to give constructive tips or prove that I am superior? When someone gives you feedback, ask yourself these questions: Am I taking it in as it is or interpreting it according to my own bias? How best can I use the feedback for my own benefit?
For feedback to play a constructive role, it is important for the giver and the receiver to acknowledge that they are not pointing out what is “wrong” with a particular issue, but rather, they are focusing on different perspectives with the intention of making something better.