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Accidental feedback: the unvarnished truth

The moment you realise you’ve sent a text to the person you were texting about is a nightmare scenario – one where you’re most likely to get the most honest feedback.

There are lots of official channels for receiving feedback in a professional capacity, but it’s fair to say our colleagues – for the most part – tend to hold back on the unvarnished truth. And the corporate psychopaths who give it to you with both barrels? Well, they’re just trying to hurt your feelings for personal advantage… Shhh, it’s okay…

Irish comedian David O’Doherty has a song on the topic of sending a text to the person you were texting about (that’s also pretty much the name of the song). It’s a nightmare scenario, but it’s also one of the few situations where you’re likely to get some unfiltered feedback. In the interests of demonstration, I’m sharing three very different scenarios in which this happened to me.

Way back when I’d first moved out of home, there was a lot I didn’t know, like how to change a blown fuse (you don’t have to anymore, just flick a switch!) and the intricacies of clothes-washing. Fortunately, my flatmate and I had organised a Festivus, complete with the traditional Airing of Grievances. This was a time where we took turns telling everyone in the room how they’d disappointed us over the year – and one guy, Ben, told me that my clothes stunk, which was (a) accurate and (b) news to me. From then on, I was assiduous about transferring my clothes from washing machine to dryer as quickly as possible.

Fast-forward many years, and I was forwarded an email thread with some information relevant to a job I was doing. As I’ve already demonstrated with the Festivus story, I’m generally good with taking on negative feedback, but the talentless, go-nowhere, LinkedIn-stalking, snarky failures of cowards that referred to me as having a “limited understanding of the nuances” of writing because I worked at People and Penthouse can rot in Adelaide. Nah, it’s cool. I’m over it now.

But it doesn’t always have to be bad feedback, does it? A month ago I was ready to crawl under my desk and bite my occasional diary through floods of tears when I realised a procedures manual I had been emailed included freelancer profiles/reviews – including one of me. Obviously I read it, just like I’d read your journal if you left it open on the bed during a sleepover, but this time I was described as a, and I quote, “highly proficient writer who can turn things around on a tight deadline”.

They also said my clothes smell like springtime in Heaven, which is a bit unprofessional, but whatevs.

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