Coord 317: Dare to Disagree

Minds Eye Society encourages its members to offer feedback.  The ability to voice opinions, praises and criticism of MES processes and rules is essential in ensuring that the organization is meeting the needs of its members.  However, criticism can be hard to give and receive but unless a member informs an officer of something they don’t like, a situation that they question, or a rule that they feel breaks the game; it can’t be corrected.   It is important to not take criticism personally or make criticism a personal attack against someone else.

Be Respectful

It is always necessary when giving feedback to be respectful to the other party.   Members should  never resort to name calling or profanity.  If a player feels they have become too frustrated or angry to continue a discussion without being able to remain respectful, they should walk away until they have cooled off.  It is better to offer criticism when both parties are calm and able to talk to each other in a way that follows the policies in the MES code of conduct.

Be Constructive

When giving negative feedback, members should try to be constructive.  They should not attack the person they are giving their feedback to.  Instead of saying, “Your rules call sucks!”  they should try saying, “I disagree with your interpretation of that rule.  I’d like to sit down and go over the book and addendum after game. ”  What the player is trying to say is meaningful.  Making sure that they say it in a way that is respectful and not confrontational will ensure that misunderstandings and hurt feelings don’t get in the way of the message they are sending.

Officers also have to take care when giving feedback to a member.  Instead of, “Quit arguing during combat scenes.”  try taking a constructive approach, “I’m concerned about the way combat scenes keep getting interrupted.  When we have to stop and take time out of a scene for you to criticize the ST rules calls it takes away from the role play, the flow of the scene and disrupts game. ” Officers should be proactive in the way they speak to members and give them a chance to voice their own concerns as well.

Know When to Stop

Beating a dead horse into a bloody pulp goes nowhere. Repeating the same argument over and over again will not help a situation.   Members should sit down and address the issues being brought up.  Allow both sides to be heard and listened to and try to come to an agreement or resolution. Then agree to leave those issues in the past.  Let all parties involved agree that the past will not be brought up again can help heal and everyone to move forward.

Discuss Observations not Inference

Focus feedback on observation rather than inference.  Criticisms should be based on what the member has observed rather than on assumptions and interpretations they might make.  Members should focus on what actually happened and not draw conclusions or make points that they don’t know as fact.  Members should describe what they have seen or heard first hand and avoid passing judgment on others.

Sandwich Suggestions

Offer some positive feedback along with the negative comments.   No one wants to feel attacked and giving one negative comment after another can cause your message to become lost in all the negativity.  If a member consistently gives only negative feedback, people will begin to “tune out” the feedback or dismiss it as “just another rant.” Members should bring something positive to the discussion and give balance to their points.  “Even though I disagree with that particular rules call, I think the storyline you are putting out is great.  I can’t wait to see where it goes.”

Feelings are Always Valid

Another key to keep in mind is that feelings are always valid.  A member should express how a situation is making them feel which can help to give a view of their perspective.  Saying, “You never listen to me.” is interpreted very differently in a conversation than, “I feel like you don’t listen to me when I tell you things.” The first is an accusation, the second conveys how a situation is affecting you personally on an emotional level.

Suggest Solutions

Suggest a solution or alternative idea to the situation.  Members will find that feedback is received better if it is accompanied by a solution to the problem.  Suggesting ways to address the issue that is being brought up will give a cooperative tone to the discussion.   A solution is something positive that will help give balance and cool frustrations.  Members should be willing to listen to other suggestions for solutions as well.  While a member may have come up with something they feel will work, another idea may be worth trying as well.

What do you do when Constructive Criticism goes “Wrong”?

There are several things that can cause feedback to go wrong.  The most common is taking things too personally.  Assuming that every criticism you receive is a personal attack is going to bring a lot of issues.  Officers in particular need to separate their position from their personal identity.  Someone may think that Henry is a great guy to role play with and even hang out at Waffle House after game, but not be happy with the way he is running the venue and feel he is lacking in some area as VST.  Understand that as an officer you will get criticism.  It isn’t personal.  It goes with the responsibility of the office.  Handle it with grace and be respectful.

If a member does resort to using profanity or making harsh accusations, don’t return fire.  When emotions heat up, it is your job as an officer to keep a cool head and help calm the situation.

In this age of electronic communication comes new obstacles when offering and receiving criticism online.  People rely heavily on body language and vocal inflection to understand emotion and intent when talking with others.  Emails and other electronic communication removes those elements from the conversation leaving us open to a multitude of interpretations based more on our imagination than what we actually see and hear.

If a member finds that they are reading something that may or may not be in the email, they should ask for a clarification and after that has been received respond explaining what they understand and ask if this is correct.  Members should read their own responses and emails before sending them to see if they might also be taken the wrong way if read from a different perspective.  Members should remember not to take things said personally and to keep the respectful tone in all communications including those sent by electronic means.

The most important part about giving constructive criticism is to remain respectful at all times.