My friend Ginger, told me one time she was teaching a children’s art class and in order to have more discipline in the classroom, she taught the children to say “in my opinion” before each comment they made of the other children’s art work. They learned to say things like, “In my opinion your painting sucks.” or whatever. The children took to this new communication skill like ducks to water. They were not told to shut up or only say positive things and it freed up the other children to know that maybe their work did not really “suck” but that a certain person thought it did, and that didn’t mean it was true, or that everybody thought that. This worked quite well for everyone, especially the teacher who was relieved of having to spend precious time monitoring the kid’s behavior.
One day a parent showed up after class and said she had a story to tell about her son’s “opinions.” They had gone to grandma and grandpa’s house for dinner and while at the table passing the food around their son sat up straight in his chair and loudly said “In my opinion, brussel sprouts suck! I’ll pass on those.”
This is a great lesson for us. We’ve all heard the term “feedback” which is something we all need and ask for from time to time. We’ve heard the rules, like always start out with something positive to say.
This is all really very tricky. I just heard Alan Watts whisper that in my ear. I would recognize his voice anywhere. Lets just see what else he has to say. “Alan, are you there?” No, well, guess I’m on my own.
Feedback can easily be confused with criticizing and is often just that, especially when you didn’t ask for it and the person didn’t start off with “in my opinion.” It’s a good idea if you want to make a comment on someone’s art work that you ask first if it’s okay to do so. If they say sure, I wouldn’t start off saying “That sucks!”
But what if there are no redeeming qualities. I find this to be true sometimes in my critique group and in my classes. Then what? I usually say. I’m so glad you spent the time working on this. I’m sure you’ve learned a lot. Can you tell me what you’ve learned from this exercise? Questions are the best for such an occasion. You can ask things like, “So, why did you paint the apple with purple stripes?”
Surely, I don’t always get it right. That’s probably why I’m writing this. So I can learn how to be a better communicator, to have better discipline and to be compassionate and understanding of another person’s feelings. I am honestly happy when people try something new. I genuinely want them to succeed. I don’t worry that they will become better at art than I am and compete with me to be top dog. It reminds me that I’m not in grade school anymore like Ginger’s students.
And that’s my opinion.