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Book Review

What Did You Say?

by Charles N. Seashore, Edith Whitfield Seashore and Gerald M. Weinberg

What Did You Say? is a great read for anyone who has ever paused or stumbled before giving feedback – and who of us has never paused or stumbled? Several “laugh out loud” vignettes and examples make each chapter enjoyable. This book will challenge your core beliefs about how you should give and receive feedback. Well known OD practitioners and academics Charles and Edith Whitfield Seashore and Gerald Weinberg have combined their talents to put together this informative and entertaining book about feedback.

The authors dispel the fantasy that “if we follow all the rules in giving feedback... clear, specific, timed right, non-judgmental... it will be accepted as given”. WRONG, we are reminded. These guidelines are helpful and necessary but the receiver makes whatever interpretation he or she wishes, all dependent on his or her life experiences. The book explores psychological models that help unwind the intricate and complex process that occurs both in the giving and receiving of feedback. Going back to Freud’s theories, we are reminded that when giving or getting feedback, our defense mechanisms are sometimes triggered and we “act is if our very survival is at stake”.

For the feedback process to be successful, the authors point out that we must view it as a “team sport - feedback is a collaborative process that one person cannot sustain alone.” The readers are also reminded that they have permission to stop if they find themselves stumbling over their words in giving tough feedback... It’s okay to say, “HMMM, that didn’t come out how I wanted, let me start over.” Giving and receiving feedback well is a challenging process and if we take away our self-imposed rules that we need to do it perfectly, we find we do much better.

Each chapter contains exercises and questions for reflection. There is a suggested outline for feedback sessions that you could conduct with your office mates or your family. The art of effectively giving and receiving feedback is a practice most can improve. Pick this book up and you will be well on your way.