Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Feedback vs Back Off

The issue of feedback is an interesting one. I am always open to feedback and want to have a dialogue in what my partner feels, responds to, etc. I try to go to practicas in order to open this dialogue with leaders. I find this almost as helpful as workshops or classes because I can focus more on nuances in practica, whereas I focus on technique in class. This does not mean that I take all feedback as gospel truth. I listen, I digest, then I take what works for me or that I agree with and go from there. Some feedback I have received has allowed me to grow in leaps and bounds, which I am eternally grateful for.

So when I come up against someone who is completely against feedback, it is a curiosity to me. And when that person is a beginner, I am flummoxed. I certainly do not think that with the short amount of time I have been dancing I am any sort of authority, and I don't give feedback on technicalities, I give feedback on embrace, on what I feel, on what I don't feel. I try to make it a dialogue as opposed to "You need to do this." Which is not helpful to anyone.

So why on earth when you are asked by your follower at a practica if you are open to feedback would you respond "No, I don't find instruction helpful. I just want to relax and not think about what I am doing." Uhm, ok. I can get the wanting to relax thing, wanting to enjoy the dance, but if you are gripping your followers shoulder blade and using it as a rudder, and your lead is coming from your head and not your core, you might want to hear about these things, especially the bone gripping thing, otherwise you might not be getting the dances you want because your follower is not going to want to put up with being man handled in that way.

So what is it with feedback? Why are some dancers open and welcoming to hearing what the other person feels in the dance? Why are some completely against this dialogue? Is it that scary? Is it because the feedback is coming from someone who is not an instructor? Is there a better way to offer feedback, or is it best not try, just to walk away if you feel unsafe or are in pain (which is what I actually ended up doing, right or wrong.)? I guess at the heart of it I can't wrap my brain around a resistance to growing and getting better.


Caroline said...

I think sometimes people are resistant to feedback because it stresses them out. Especially if coming from various different sources all contradicting each other.
Could it be that he has a regular partner for class and all she did was criticize him? Maybe his teacher was always on his case? There could be such issues that he wasn't telling you about.
Maybe he really did need a break from feedback even though consequently, it had a negative effect on his partners.
Sometimes people just need to learn the hard way because they are that thickheaded.

Alex said...

Hey Debbi,

Great post, on a sensitive subject. I'm glad you brought it up.

I think some people who are opposed to feedback have issues going all the way back to their childhood. A psychologist could more authoritatively explain this, but my gut instinct/common sense tells me that they probably grew up in a family wherein one or both parents were extremely critical of them as a child - scolding or even verbally attacking for every little thing.

Some people just have their own personal issues and demons that they unfortunately bring to tango.

By the way - I know you know this, but you did the right thing. I would steer clear of this person.

Debbi said...

Hey Caroline - I know I did not know the background of the day for him, but still..... Well, in a way I did give him feedback by saying thank you and leaving the floor.

Alex, it is a sensitive subject and one that I don't hear that much about. I think you have a valid idea there with the whole psychology theory. I know sometimes I react in a way that I know is related to my childhood, but I am aware of these things and try to adjust my reaction. I just don't get it when others don't play well in the sandbox.
But hell yea, not going go through that again!

Elizabeth said...

I don't think critique is at all out-of-line in a practica, or class. Isn't that what it's for? For feedback for working on things? A person who is so sensitive/fearful might have trouble learning tango in the long run.

La Nuit Blanche said...

it seems like the guy is confusing a practica with a milonga. knowing you, i know you put the offer of feedback gently, and delicately. if a nice, sweet, more experienced follower is politely suggesting something, it should be obvious that something feels very wrong in his dance (or worse, he is hurting you, which was the case!).

i guess some people just need to learn the hard way... it's depressing to think about, but when it gets to a point where no one will dance with him, no even at practica, he will make the realization and ask for feedback. :-(

Harish said...

Great post!

If this leader had any interest in getting better he would have at least heard what you have to say. His response is all the more surprising because social tango is at its crux, about the connection, the feel and the dynamics. Its not like this is performance tango/ballroom dancing where the aesthetics supersede.

Re: feeling unsafe or being in pain, I'm of the belief that one should stop asap - better to risk "hurting" the other person's ego than your own well being.

Btw..not to make this about me, but if any of you leaders/followers want to give me any feedback, in a practica or milonga, by all means please feel free to do so. I'd really appreciate it!

5:45AM said...

It is a bit tricky indeed. Critique and/or feedback should be balanced. I think it's more about communication and understanding each other. Why is this happening? Is it you or is it me?

It should never be offending and/or *hostile* in any way. Egos aside we all have to adjust and learn. Step by step, embrace by embrace.

Debbi said...

I am not surprised that this is a topic that is always timely. I agree with everyone's statements. Practicas are the place for feedback. If you are not open to feedback at the time, that is fine, there are reasons for that, but don't be surprised or surly when the person you are dancing with cuts it short. Usually when I ask "Are you open to feedback?" it is because there is something going on that is disruptive to our connection. Be it me or the leader. Whichever it is, I think it should be addressed. And if you are endangering me.... well... adios if you are not interested in what I have to offer.

Ney Melo has some "tango rules" that I have under my shared items, and I think they are really golden rules. take a peek!

Johanna said...

Thank you for linking to my post, Debbi. I think you make an excellent distinction about feedback at a milonga vs. a practica. The whole point of a practica is to, um,practice. In that scenario, I expect a conversation to happen, even stopping and starting as we work stuff out.

But I think most of the posts regarding "feedback" are specifically about it happening at a milonga. Well, at least that's what I meant.

And yes, feedback is very valuable, depending on its source :-)

Johanna said...

Ok, now see? This is what happens when you're in blogger overload. I posted my comment here for a post elsewhere....

But my comments still apply since it's the same subject. Except for the link part :-0