Aug. 14, 2022: Feedback, Critiques, and Coaching...Oh My!
We live in a world full of feedback. Simply put, our action gets a result, and whether or not that is the result we wanted, we know whether our action needs to be adjusted. The burn when we touch the hot stove is feedback. Our sore muscles, when we wake up after a day of heavy yardwork, is feedback. The car starting when we fill the tank with gas, is feedback. Feedback is not just from our mundane actions. As writers, those rejections we get when we send out queries, are feedback- even if they are general and nonspecific. Feedback can be something we seek out, for example, when sharing a professional letter we want to send, and asking if it sends the right message. Or it can be unintentional, such as wearing a new style of clothing we typically do not and getting several heartfelt compliments. Feedback is everywhere.
A critique is the detailed analysis and assessment of something, especially a literary or artistic work. At least that is the official definition. But a critique can be of anything. Typically, a critique is more valuable if done by someone skilled in said area. For example, a critique of a new pesto sauce recipe could be done by your teenager, but is going to be more helpful if done by a seasoned and skilled cook. As writers, critiques are immensely helpful during drafting and revision stages. Sometimes we may seek out a very narrow, specific critique. For example, if we have an historical expert read our work in progress to see if we have captured the historical time period accurately. Or a critique can be more general, as when a fellow writer reads our work for flow and plot gaps. Critiques also involve an aspect of assessment and evaluation, as the work or action is compared to standards and expectations. After giving a presentation at a conference, the surveys participants are asked to fill out, are critiques.
Coaching is working and interacting with others in order to help them reach a specific goal. There are many variations of an official definition out there, and we live in a world full of coaches. The traditional sports coaches are now joined by Life Coaches, Health Coaches, Employment Coaches. The list is endless. Coaches must be aware of our goals and aspirations, and then help us to come up with action items and a game plan to get there. They also support and encourage and hold us accountable. Coaching is very similar to mentoring, and the two overlap in many ways.
In my working life, all three of these are important, yet they all have a very different place and purpose. And those places are fluid and flexible, depending on the specific time or project. As both an educator and a writer, I depend on feedback, critiques, and coaching to improve my practice and skill. In both roles, I am also at times, the giver of feedback, or critiques, or coaching.
As this new school year gets underway, I am once again reminded of the importance of all three in helping us all to thrive, prosper, and reach our goals. So look around you. Notice the feedback, seek out critiques, and be sure to maximize the coaching and mentoring in your life.