Getting In My Business

I had an experience last week that I wanted to share with my readers. I am not sure whether I reacted properly in a given situation, so I’ll begin by telling you my story. It has to do with giving feedback and criticism to others.

I attended a class last week with a small group of five. It was a fairly intimate setting and we spent a lot of time in group discussion. It was a “train the trainer” class where I earned a certification to teach a course in my new role. Part of that time I received feedback from other class attendees on my presentations, and it was my job to give feedback to others as they presented.

At the end of the third day of training, the discussion trailed off onto a critique of the class material. The instructor made a statement about the layout of a particular slide and how it was a bad Power Point, in his opinion. One gentleman in the class went off into a long discussion about the merits of Power Point, presentation style, and other related topics – though not related to us being fluent in our presentations or our grasp of the material. I wasn’t feeling well and it had been a long week, but I didn’t say anything. I had nothing to offer to the discussion so I began to check my phone. We were about 30 minutes overtime by this point.

It was then that the gentleman attempted to draw me back into the conversation. I didn’t care to engage the topic so I didn’t say much, however he persisted and asked what was wrong. I just told him that I was hungry and tired. If the rest of the class was getting information from this discussion, I didn’t want to end it because of my lack of interest so I simply tried to be polite. The class ended more than 90 minutes after the scheduled end time that evening.

The following morning, the gentleman asked me if I would give him my opinion about something. I told him yes, but to be careful what he asked for – after all, I am an expert on my own opinion. He asked what I thought about the previous night’s conversation. I told him simply that I thought the instructor’s initial comment sparked a discussion that should have been held the next day. I said I thought it was late to get into that discussion and that it was more fitting to the last day of class, based on the agenda.

Here’s where I think the line was crossed. The next comment caught me completely off guard. The gentleman said that he appreciated the feedback, but he knew that I had checked out and that I wasn’t simply hungry or tired. He then proceeded with “And if I might offer some feedback, maybe you can be more direct next time.”

I had to cut him off. I asked him to stop right there, and said that I didn’t ask him for feedback and reminded him that he asked me for feedback instead. He took that by asking “so we don’t have the kind of relationship where I can offer you constructive feedback?” He tried to push the issue that I spoke to him with my body language the night before, but I maintained that I did not ask for feedback. Honestly, I didn’t care how he took it at the time. We left the conversation on a cordial, but cold, note.

I didn’t answer his question right off, but in short, NO! Nobody wants to hear your opinion of them unless they ask for it. You simply don’t have the credibility or the relationship with someone after a few short days to give that kind of input and feedback. It takes a while to develop that sort of relationship where someone values your opinion, especially of them.

People only earn the right to speak into your life through their ongoing relationship with you. Someone who I would classify as nothing more than an acquaintance, like this gentleman, does not. I didn’t know him before the class and probably will never meet him again.

So here is where your input and response is required. Am I being too sensitive on this topic? After all, I did spend a few days in class with this individual. He asked me for my feedback and input, should I have been open and receptive to his constructive feedback for me? What are your suggestions on how to handle a situation such as this?

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