“Make some noise” and other ways to handle applause and/or feedback

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How do you react when you receive lukewarm (or negative) feedback on your work?

Receiving and responding to feedback at work can be challenging, especially when it’s critical or unexpected. This applies to people at all levels and in all kinds of roles and I found myself reflecting on this point after seeing Black Sabbath play in Melbourne, Australia recently.

What amazed me more than anything was that I was standing there watching the band who is widely revered as having invented heavy metal, and they felt the need to ask for the audience’s love, as if the feedback they were receiving was not meeting their expectations.

The room was already filled with love; I could sense it in the pre-show meanderings around the venue and the stadium floor. There were people of all creeds of rock, aged from their teens to their senior years. Everyone was there to see Sabbath and united in the love of rock and metal.

The band was amazing, and Ozzy Osbourne did what Ozzy does, but Ozzy was flat at times and it was those songs which received some of the most lukewarm crowd reactions. These reactions may have been an anomaly on this, their final world tour (possibly a symptom of what is traditionally a tough rock n roll crowd in Melbourne), but what I found disappointing was that here stood a certifiable music legend asking the audience for a better reaction.

When a performer asks the crowd to “make some (more) noise” after a mediocre performance I immediately cringe, especially at a rock show, as if hiphop’s tradition of demanding crowd participation has infected the otherwise fine institution that is rock n roll. Being a performing musician of 30-odd years I believe you have to earn the audience’s love, and it doesn’t matter how successful or famous you are.

If it was a two way conversation I would say “Ozzy, maaaate. You do what you do, perform well, give it your all and entertain me, and trust me, I will make some noise, but please, stop asking for it.” I think a lot of people in the room felt the same way.

At work, we always talk about ‘the love’. We regularly go the extra mile to please our clients and their audiences because we want to earn a great reaction (and of course the repeat business that goes along with successful projects). However, to quote Sigmund Freud, “we are never so vulnerable as when we love”, which is why I believe adopting this mind-set at work can make feedback challenging at times. If Ozzy “The Prince of Darkness” Osbourne finds a mild round of applause difficult to swallow, what hope do us mere mortals have?

Imagine receiving lukewarm (or negative) feedback from a client mid-project. Imagine then saying: “Aw come on! Tell me you loved it more. Make some noise!” You wouldn’t. (Please, tell me you wouldn’t). So what do you do with that feedback?

The example of Ozzy (and countless other acts I’ve seen, be they world-famous or local) serve as a reminder to me to always put in 100%, to always remain focused on the audience, and to always execute a task with intent, because it’s the first round of applause that really counts, not the one you asked for.

More importantly it reminds me to be humble when receiving less than glowing feedback and to always look for the positives. Let’s face it, communicating feedback constructively is a skill which not every person possesses, so our ability to handle feedback in a positive way can make or break the way in which we carry a project forward.

Feedback is a hot topic at the moment and while I’m not currently researching this area, Ozzy and Co did inspire me to share my hot tips for handling feedback. They’re based on years of experience working with people in a range of technical and creative rolls. I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me.

Jimi Hendrix mastered the art of feedback… still needed support though

Always thank a person for their feedback regardless of how it makes you feel

Apart from extending the professional courtesy of acknowledging that you have received it, this places you in a positive frame of mind and reminds you that the feedback is (hopefully) geared towards a better outcome, which should enable you to do your job/complete a project with a greater degree of success. The important part here is you have to really mean that “thank you”, which means not being passive aggressive or sarcastic about it… that’s never a good look.


Ask for some positive feedback if you don’t receive any

It could be a simple, “I’d also love to hear more about what you did like so we can do more of that for you in future.” Clients, managers and co-workers are often so focused on what they want to change that they forget to tell you what they like, so ask. You’d be amazed how many times a person will say “Oh we loved it! It’s just those couple of points we want to take care of.” The bonus here is that these insights might help you solve the things that didn’t work.


Understand the person giving feedback and their background

Where possible, ask directly or research the project team to understand each person’s skill sets and strengths. Best to do this before receiving feedback because if you ask afterwards you’ll come across as questioning the validity of their feedback. By knowing that a person is skilled in a project-related area outside of their actual role, you can manage your expectations of the level of feedback they’ll supply and you can even adjust the way you deliver work for their feedback. This will also enable you to take certain parts of the feedback ‘with a grain of salt’ if you suspect a person is a little out of their depth.


All feedback is not created equal

If you believe that implementing an item of feedback will be detrimental to a project’s outcomes then stand your ground. Be prepared to argue your position calmly and logically, and to point out the positives and negatives of both approaches to the problem. This will enable the other party to make an informed decision. Often you’ll find they haven’t properly considered your position or that you didn’t provide enough detail for them to fully understand it.

And failing all of that, you could always ask them to “Make some noise!”

Over to you. How do you manage the blows of both warranted and unwarranted negative feedback?

Justin Cruickshank is a media production specialist with 12+ years industry experience across film and video production, journalism, music and audio production, digital production and elearning production. He’s now enjoying life with The Learning Hook as our Lead Learning Designer/Project Manager.

For more eLearning, visit www.learninghook.com.au

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