Mohammed’s bi-monthly column aims to openly and honestly target issues around the native culture, society, religion, economy, and policy that have resulted as a consequence of the constantly changing demographics of the region. The column is characterized by a point-like articulate approach that gives the reader a comprehensive understanding of the discussed issues.
Article in brief: Mohammed Kazim speaks of his experience of impulsive feedback. He walks the reader through 3 steps for optimizing feedback such that the receiver can maximize its benefit.
In my last article in this column, I mentioned Dubai as being a fertile ground for fruitful collaboration that can lead to prosperity. I can proudly say that such a collaboration has kept me busy for the past 2 years which has resulted in the birth of a new quality footwear brand that revives the region’s past and helps a segment of society. Given that I was assigned as a spokesperson for this new venture, I have been in the forefront of media as well as social circles within the GCC community.
As such, I received all kinds of comments both positive and negative, all of which I listened to closely in hopes of improving this new venture. I quickly came to realize that the majority of the feedback I was getting was not constructive enough to allow me to benefit from it. As a matter of fact, the feedback (whether positive or negative) was purely emotional resulting from what I believe is a lack of critical thinking and opinion formulation. From my observations, what is generally accepted by society is received with a warm welcome and what is rejected by society is refuted, all without any thought process.
Therefore, I was receiving comments such as “this footwear was never worn in this region”, “these colors will never sell”, and my all-time favorite “making a ladies’ collection is blasphemous!” The surprising part was that this type of meaningless criticism was coming from all segments of society including educated heads of departments of reputable media companies in the country. This truly saddened me, a person eager to improve what we have created. It reminded me of the people of Quraysh (inhabitants of Makkah) who refuted the Prophet Muhammad and claimed that their idol-worship practices stemmed from the Abrahamic way. The similarity was that they had no formulated opinion or logical evidence to support their claims.
That said, I believe everyone has the right to their opinion and it is a blessing that we have a variety of tastes. I don’t expect all people to like everything I or anyone else creates. However, when we decide to share our opinions, it is important to maximize the benefit to the receiving person rather than insult them. In my opinion, following the 3 basic steps below can guide feedback optimization.
First, it is important to completely understand what we feel towards the subject at hand. Understanding signifies that we have formulated an opinion based on a logical flow of a critical thought process. As such, we would have a clear reasoning for why we like or dislike the matter or product. This enables us to recommend how to improve areas of dislike and reinforce areas that we like. It also allows the receiver of the feedback to benefit from it and put it into action most effectively. (To learn more about proactive thought, read my article from Feb 2010 in The National, http://www.thenational.ae/news/three-steps-to-restore-the-arabic-tradition-of-thought)
Second, it is incumbent that we make sure what we say is always pleasant and useful. That does not mean to be hypocritical and sugar coat things, rather it means to word them appropriately. This includes making sure that the manner of conveying is respectful and that the intention of giving feedback is pure and free from any kind of hatred, jealousy, or insecurity.
“.. and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day (The Day of Judgement) should speak a good word or remain silent.” – The Prophet Muhammed, Narrated in by Abu Huraira, Sahih Bukhari & Sahih Muslim
Third, if we are giving negative feedback, we need to make sure the context and venue of where we do it is appropriate. Feedback and advice should be direct and discrete such that the receiver feels comfortable and that this does not create any negativity or loss for him/her.
“The one who advices his brother in private, advices him and pleases him, and the one who advices him in public, embarrasses him and betrays him.” – Imam Al Shafei (Al Hilya, Abu Naeem, 9/140)
In summary, I believe that the way feedback is shared in our societies is ineffective and can cause more harm than good. Through formulating a clear opinion based on critical thought, conveying feedback appropriately and with respect, and making sure it is direct and discrete, we can optimize feedback sharing. This optimization’s benefits are twofold; not only will it allow us to better understand how we feel about the matter at hand but it will also allow the maximum benefit for those receiving the feedback. Let’s optimize the way we do that and continue improving each other in our path to prosperity.