Startup general interest

Give feedback with compassion

This passage is from a 1958 letter Samuel Beckett wrote as feedback to Aiden Higgins, an aspiring Irish author living in South African (emphasis mine):

My reluctance to comment has become overpowering. I hate the thought of the damage I may do from such unwillingness and such incapacity. If I were less concerned with you I should simply say it is very good, I like it very much, but don’t see where to send it, and leave it at that. But I don’t want to do that with you. And at the same time I know I can’t go into it in a way profitable for you. This is not how writers help one another.

I love the burning compassion that comes through. Beckett clearly cares deeply for Higgins and is delivering the feedback because he wants to help. People on the receiving end of feedback coming from a place of caring are much more likely to listen and remember.

The other thing that stands out for me is the effort that Beckett puts in. That’s important because it reinforces the point that he cares, but the bigger takeaway is that giving good feedback takes a lot of work. Facts need to be remembered and it takes time to prepare properly. The McKinsey Feedback Model is a good guide.

Hat tip to Brainpickings.