When you are German, you can be sure to be born with a unique characteristic that distinguishes you from all the other nations: the complain-gene. To us, things are never really great – take the weather, for instance: Either it is too hot, or too cold, or too windy, or too rainy. We are never satisfied. Even when everything seems perfect, we still find little hindrances bugging us.
It’s probably our culture, and maybe this is what keeps us going and what pushes us to be the nitpicking, yet efficient people we are known for. Maybe it makes us happy, and below the grumpy complaining surface our heart is leaping for joy because we found a flaw.
But have you noticed that in general, no matter the culture, people love giving negative feedback way more than giving positive feedback? If everything is ok, usually nothing is said. So if nothing is said at all, it usually means everything should be ok. Why is that? When I told a friend once that I was planning to write an email to a former teacher, updating him about my life and thanking him for the skills he had helped me achieve, she was puzzled: “Why would you do that?” she asked me. “This is so weird!”
I did it nevertheless, and I am happy about it. Why on earth would it be weird to give positive feedback? It makes me so happy when someone tells me what I wrote inspired them, so I can only assume also other people value being appreciated. Receiving positive feedback helps us to stay motivated, to carry on, to remember that we do all the things we do, and all the effort we put, for a reason! Yet, we expect it to come only from those who are practically obliged to give feedback: Our parents. Our teachers. Maybe a friend, if we ask for it. But giving unrequested feedback, positive, hell no! That is just too weird!
This is one of the reasons why I don’t like feedback forms. They are abused by those who just love complaining, even if it gets personal. If they had really something bugging them, and they knew a way to make it better, or simply to suggest improvement for future peers, they would probably sit down and send an email. So if the effort outweighs the purpose, it can’t be so bad, can it? But giving them a feedback form is like presenting your naked soul on a silver plate, and handing a hunting knife additionally. A feedback form with a grading system, for instance: No need to think of reasons why some particular thing was worse than expected – just stab. Bam! And so they do.
Yes, as reader of those feedback forms, we should ignore such half-baked opinions. If something had gone wrong, we probably know it ourselves already. If we really don’t, someone will most certainly hint on it. But expecting a differentiated opinion and constructive feedback from someone who has no clue about the background work, but just received a particular snapshot and now thinks he or she is able to judge the whole situation like an expert, is merely utopia. In the best case scenario, we get some elaborated bullshit with suggestions we ourselves threw over long ago because we know about the consequences. In the worst case scenario, we just get comments like “Didn’t like it”, “I can do better”, and other happy little messages.
I sometimes wonder who is that self-absorbed to find pleasure in giving such negative comments as a feedback. When I am really pissed with a service, I sit down and write an elaborated text with reasons and explanations. As a consequence, I usually get some apology, a reimbursement or a solution for the future. If I instead sat down and just wrote “You suck!”, how would that change anything?
But there we have the underlying problem with those complainers: They don’t want to change anything. They just like complaining. They go to an event organized by volunteers, for free, and expect a Deluxe-VIP treatment with butt-massages and free cocaine with a cherry on top. They are the same people that join a trip organized by a group of friends, too busy to help in the preparations, but then they know everything better and try to cheat with their share of costs. Someone who writes “Boring”, into a feedback form does not want to make the world a better place. (S)he simply finds temporary pleasure in upsetting other people by diminishing their work. And then his/her dull life continues.
I worship my complain-gene because I have modified it into also giving positive feedback. Even unrequested. And, because I fill feedback forms when I have noticed a flaw, and then – here it comes – I suggest an alternative. Or do I just wanna win an ipad? You will never know.