I learnt last night that when Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was first published in 1859, one of the first persons the book was sent to for review was the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce. Unsurprisingly, it received truly scathing feedback. And, much of the criticism did not even address the content of the book. This made me think of how important it is to understand from whom exactly you are getting feedback.
You have to remember that no matter how much thought and rigour you put into a piece of work, sometimes the feedback you receive might be completely unrelated. Because it is coloured by the biases, agenda and views of the reviewer. They might be more concerned with validating and protecting their own beliefs than providing you with constructive criticism.
We have to acknowledge that sometimes those in so-called positions of authority might be the least qualified to give feedback. Luckily, Darwin had the temperament to receive the reviews with a light heart and good humour. And, the controversy surrounding the Bishop’s comments happened to be good for book sales!
Finding the right people
It can be difficult to know deeper motivations and so finding the right people to get feedback from can be a tricky area. Of course, you don’t simply want the views of people that you know will agree with you. At the same time, you don’t want to be shot down for no reason.
Being aware of the complex nature of feedback is then both the beginning and the end. You can never know the true intentions of people. But, at least understanding that hidden agendas may be at play will allow you to be more prepared in carefully considering any feedback.
Ultimately, it is for you to take what you feel is relevant and leave behind the rest.
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