About Paula Kiger

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

5 Ways to Serve Up Effective Feedback

When I was a kid, I had a contraption I used to help me practice my tennis skills during the summer. It consisted of a stationary base that I sat at the end of the driveway. Attached to the base was a flexible bungee-type rope, and attached to that was a tennis ball. I would hit the ball. The ball would bounce in the road, and thanks to the bungee it would return to me. I would repeat the process ad infinitum.

Giving Feedback

Image credit: Anthem Sports

I thought about that contraption today when I decided to write about feedback. Since I began editing for my current employer, first as a freelance editor in February and now as a full-timer, I am back in the business of giving feedback after a few years on the sidelines.

In my case, it’s a combination of giving feedback and negotiating details of our production process. It’s not Wimbledon, but it’s important to me and to my employer that what we send out in to the world doesn’t commit a fault.

Once you’re on the feedback court, here’s how to have a great game, set and match.

Direct is best

In our work, time is of the essence and the items on which we are collaborating are short. Since all of my communication occurs virtually (i.e., over Slack or email), I have the advantage of being able to send a message the recipient will be able to keep for future reference and the disadvantage of not presenting the feedback in person. Anything vague threatens to dilute the clarity of my recommendation.

The US Tennis Association says “[D]own-the-line shots are often more effective offensively but are more difficult. Crosscourt shots are easier … but also have the greatest margin for error.”

In editing, as in tennis, down-the-line shots (i.e., being direct) often work best.

Hesitation detracts from success

Once an issue presents itself and has proven to be something that needs to be addressed, hesitating to discuss it has the potential to hurt all parties involved. The person who needs the feedback doesn’t have the benefit of knowing what they need to change, and the more time elapses the less they will recall the situation in the first place. It also takes up bandwidth in your brain as the giver of the feedback, and who wouldn’t want to clear that kind of thing out to avoid mental clutter?

Tomaz Mencinger of TennisMindGame.com said quick reactions give a player “more time to get to the ball, make the right decision, balance yourself … and perform your stroke properly.”

In the giving of feedback, too, hesitating to say something can deprive you of a winning point.

Building Trust Matters

As a freelance worker in the four years between leaving Healthy Kids (May 2014) and starting my current position (September 2018), almost all of my work-related conversations have occurred over email, Slack, Facebook (one of my employers coordinated everything through a secret Facebook group before moving to Slack) or Basecamp.

Now that I am responsible for giving feedback to others and negotiating the fine points of grammar, style and various operational issues with other team members, I am reminded every day of the importance of learning to trust each other.

People who love grammar can be a bit wrapped up in its importance (ask me how I know), and unfortunately even in a world dominated by the AP Stylebook, there are still gray areas and people who mean well but simply have a learning gap or strong opinion or some other hurdle that presents itself when trying to iron out an area of disagreement.

Building trust is not always easy (it’s why I am a proponent of trying to help people get to know each other outside of the narrow confines of their assigned tasks), but ultimately it leads to a higher quality product.

I want anyone who gets feedback from me to know it’s about the specifics of the question, not about them as a person, to perceive my comments as a springboard to being better, not an attack meant to quash their confidence or success.

Writing about what makes the best doubles tennis partners, Bill Previdi of the US Professional Tennis Association said, “The willingness and desire to do more than your fair share, to share the credit and the blame, and to stay calm under pressure are the keys.”

No one on a team is going to succeed without communication, on the court or at the keyboard.

Accuracy is paramount

Be specific when discussing something that would best be done differently in the future. Although Karen Hertzberg’s How to give feedback that’s constructive, not crushing is about manuscript critiques rather than the type of editing I do, this point is true regardless of the type of content:

…your job is to determine whether the writer accomplished what they set out to do.

I like that outlook, because I think most writers, editors and copy editors bring a lifetime of accumulated knowledge about language in general, as well as personal convictions about what comprises effective writing, to their work.

It is important to bring into focus the mutual goals of the publication or entity involved when giving feedback.

And in my environment, although the ethos is “pristine editing,” I always remind myself that the ultimate reader may be opening their newsletter as they ride the train in the morning, or as they gulp down their coffee as the day’s demands start to weigh in. It needs to be intelligent yet digestible.

A ball that lands outside of the lines doesn’t help a player score. That all starts with that player’s choice of how to serve or return. Ditto for editing — what I do to make the feedback clear has much to do with its effect on the outcome.

Accepting and Integrating Feedback is Important Too

Many of the best leaders and supervisors have coaches themselves. Remember the contraption I discussed at the beginning of this post? I could have stood in my driveway for five summers, hitting the ball on the bungee until the bungee wore out and snapped, and not become a better player.

There was no one there to tell me anything about my swing, my reflexes, my approach.

“Everyone needs a coach,” said Bill Gates in this TED talk. (Take the 10 minutes to listen to the talk; Gates has a point.)

No tennis player worth their salt did it without being coached, inevitably meaning they got lots of feedback. That’s true in editing and relating to colleagues too — seek out those who can help you do a better job and be a more effective team member.

(Note: The recipient of the feedback has to be receptive too, of course. That could turn into a whole other post, so I won’t pull on that thread right now, but if someone is resistant to feedback, try to work with them on the “why” of that. Accepting and acting on feedback is pretty fundamental (to their ultimate professional success and your product’s quality level).

The Post-Game Ceremony

Here, I need to digress from the traditional post-match ceremony, where there is a winner and a loser.

Virginia Wade said (according to this website):

It’s difficult for most people to imagine the creative process in tennis. Seemingly it’s just an athletic matter of hitting the ball consistently well within the boundaries of the court. That analysis is just as specious as thinking that the difficulty in portraying King Lear on stage is learning all the lines.

Delivering feedback in a professional, respectful, constructive way is about so much more than “learning all the lines.” It’s also about helping everyone win and making each player have a  share of the spotlight.

Giving Feedback

 

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Five Minute Friday: BURDEN

Five Minute Friday Burden

Today’s Prompt: BURDEN

The main thing that comes to mind when I hear the word “burden” is how Wayne’s parents and my parents all said over the past few decades “I don’t want to be a burden when I get old.”

I don’t know many people whose attitude is “I’m going to be a stone around the neck of my adult child as I grow more incapable and need more care.”

Yet, the problem we face is the reality of what happens as aging parents age. Either:

  1. They made no plans for their later years (not blaming here, just being honest), or
  2. The plans they did make don’t work out (the long-term care insurance they paid into so diligently turns down their claim, the “healthier” partner dies first, whatever condition assails them is so much worse than they anticipated.

That is where the “I don’t want to be a burden” crashes into all those times we adult children said something like “don’t be silly, that’s what I’m here for.”

I’m in enough caregiver groups online, left over from the three years Wayne’s dad lived with us, to be exposed daily to the candid truth of how difficult adult children’s lives are as they accept that burden.

It’s difficult, but the people in these groups (and people I know in person) accept the burden with such grace and competence it floors me. Having a place to vent doesn’t in any way detract from the grace they show, the love they share and the weight they shoulder.

If you are a caregiver struggling under the weight of the burden, I send my support. If you are not a caregiver, find one and share a word of support, Even a kind word will lighten their load, I promise you.

Five Minute Friday

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Seeking Space for Hope

Quite a few times after Hurricane Michael came ashore, mostly sparing Tallahassee  and leaving us mainly with the annoyance of darkened homes during lengthy power outages as our neighbors to the west had their houses, businesses, and properties destroyed, I said, “We dodged a bullet.” (Many projected storm paths had Michael making a direct hit on our town).

Little did we know that 23 days later, literal bullets at the hands of a murderer would not spare us as a community, as a shooting at Hot Yoga Tallahassee resulted in the deaths of Nancy Van Vessem and Maura Binkley and the injuries of several others (the gunman also died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound).

My Relationship With Hot Yoga Tallahassee

Although I never went to HYT’s first location, I remember several friends raving about it. If I recall correctly, it was on the west side of town, in what was probably a more out-of-the way location.

The clientele and the reputation of the studio grew, and it relocated to Betton Place, a more centrally located, upscale complex. That’s where I first took yoga at HYT and met Brittani, the owner. Although I didn’t go to HYT exclusively, it still played a unique role in my yoga life.

I did glow yoga and sacred music yoga there. I participated in the December Instagram challenge with HYT one year, posting a picture a day for a month. Most recently, I took part in the outdoor community yoga at their newer location off of Bannerman Road.

The entire time, I watched Brittani grow as a business owner. I saw her become a mom and work through the difficult period of her baby’s severe health problems when he was first born. I remember well a time this summer when he was with her at outdoor yoga; he brings her so much joy.

I’ve always thought it must be a difficult balance to strike to own a yoga studio: an activity that is supposed to help all of its participants eradicate worry juxtaposed against the difficulties of running a business. How do you collect unpaid fees from someone who was seeking respite from the stresses of debt? How do you gently and compassionately intercede with the space hog, the yogi wearing the off-putting fragrance, the late arrival who had promised to arrive 10 minutes early to avoid disrupting everyone else?

I admire Brittani for being a business owner, but I love her more for the mother and human she is.

The Door

Hot Yoga Tallahassee offered more types of yoga than “hot,” despite its name. However, it does do hot yoga well. I always found its heating system and temps to be relatively hotter than other places, especially with their previous system.

Although the actual helpfulness of this was probably all in my head, I liked getting the spot closest to the door. I had the idea that an infinitesimal wisp of air could get in between the floor and the door to keep me from passing out. The temperature probably wasn’t any different by the door than at the farthest corner of the studio, but the thought gave me some relief (it would also be easier to leave and take a respite from the heat without disrupting other people if I was already by the door).

The Grief

I am struggling to write about this situation. It is as hard to find words that even come faintly close to being adequate as it was to get air through an imperceptible space between the door and the floor at HYT.

I was talking with a therapist recently about a situation that had formed an emotional knot in my psyche, one that I couldn’t untangle or resolve. Lo and behold, as she walked me through how the knot got there in the first place, it became apparent that the tension keeping the knot so tightly bound wasn’t solely generated from the situation that was presenting itself as the problem, but from the tectonic shift set off when my mom passed away in February.

And for all the grief I feel for this most recent situation, I have had to tell it to “take a number” as if my heart were the DMV and that the various situations needing to be processed were so many expiring license plate decals.

Other People’s Words

Fortunately, as I work through my emotional knot, other people have risen to the challenge with the perfect words.

From Food Glorious Food, a business in the same complex as Hot Yoga Tallahassee:

Tallahassee Gun Safety

From David Harshada Wagner:

Tallahassee Gun Safety

Photo credit: David Harshada Wagner

From John C. Thomas IV, father of Maura Binkley’s roommate:

I don’t have any answers, but I know now the firsthand agony of what no one should have to deal with with such numbing frequency.

My heart goes out to Maura’s family and all other victims of this senseless act, and to all those who live silently with pain in the aftermath of this type of violence.

It [mental health issues and gun violence] cannot be marginalized. It must be our biggest priority, for the sake of our children and future generations.

From Gary Taylor, Ph.D., Florida State University English Department Chair. (Maura Binkley was an FSU English major.)

What we can do, as English majors, is write about the particulars of her beautiful promise. What we can do, as Americans, is dedicate ourselves to erasing the ugliness that erased her.

From Nancy Van Vessem’s daughter, Molly Johnson:

Tallahassee Gun Safety

I read that Dr. Van Vessem’s favorite spot was by the door too. I’m guessing she just wanted to be able to leave efficiently to get to work. Maybe, like me, she needed the reassurance that she was close to cooler air if the temperature got too warm.

I don’t know, and can’t fathom, why she and Maura Binkley are gone.

Thank you, Food Glorious Food and David Harshada Wagner, for trying to find the tiniest sliver of hope and a path forward at a time when I’m not there yet.

Tallahassee Gun Safety

Benefits:

There are several GoFundMe accounts set up to benefit Hot Yoga Tallahassee:

From the Director of the Florida Yoga Teachers Association

From Lauren Cordy, a friend of Brittani’s

From Becca Berry

From M&M Monogramming, designed by The Moore Agency:

All proceeds from the sale of this sweatshirt go to Hot Yoga Tallahassee.

From Advanced Metal Art:

Tallahassee Gun Safety

Photo Credit: Advanced Metal Art

(As other benefits appear, I’ll add them here.)

I also recommend Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety and Sandy Hook Promise to learn more about advocacy for a solution to gun-related problems in our country.

I am linking this post up with the Kat Bouska prompt, “Write a blog post [based on] the word: dark.”

Tallahassee Gun Safety

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Five Minute Friday: REPEAT

Five Minute Friday Repeat

Today’s Prompt: REPEAT

I often stream CNN while I am sitting at my desk. Because I am watching the streamed version, they handle the commercial breaks differently. Often, they repeat the same commercial over and over again, three or four times.

I could tune it out (maybe), but it gets on my nerves. During election season, it has gotten on my nerves because they play a commercial for the opponent of the candidate for whom I plan to vote, and once is MORE than enough. Three times in a row puts me over the edge.

My observation: I am living with it (and complaining about it) rather than doing something. I have so many options: stream something else, listen to the radio instead, work in silence (honestly that one isn’t so appealing, but….). Yet I just harrumph through the break and wish the program would begin again.

Allowing the negative (or what is negative for us) to repeat when there are other options is a pattern that is far too easy to fall into.

A round of annoying political commercials is one thing (and those should be over in five days, blessedly), but are there other things in your life that are repeating, sucking your energy and joy as you endure them?

I have a small suggestion/challenge for the day: don’t be passive in the face of the negative repeat. Change the “channel.”

Five Minute Friday

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

FMF31 2018 Day 31: CLOSE

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2018 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: CLOSE

I have been in some situations where I have a shared log-in to a particular website with other people, people who are physically in other places. If I don’t close out of the website, they can’t get in. (For some websites, it doesn’t matter if multiple people are logged in simultaneously.)

There is a metaphor in that (needing to close out so someone can get in) for our lives and relationships too. It is easy, and the emotional default, to keep lingering on something (an issue, an opinion, a bias) long after it serves us rather than putting it to rest and moving on.

There are assumptions I have reached about certain relationships in my life based on one incident or conversation that didn’t go the way I wanted that have probably kept me from enjoying a potentially fruitful situation for both of us.

And I’m wondering how we “close that tab,” silence our minds, and put those assumptions to rest.

The people in our lives deserve better.

I know I have been given a second chance by people I have wronged or not given sufficient time or space at first.

Thank goodness.

(And a heartfelt thank you to Kate for hosting another 31-day writing challenge!)

Five Minute Friday Comfort

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

FMF31 2018 Day 30: VOICE

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2018 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: VOICE

I was trying to wrap up my tasks Sunday night so I could get to bed. I had CNN on in the background. I kept stopping to watch, because Lisa Ling wanted to connect with her grandmother.

Lisa Ling has a show that airs on Sunday evenings, and this episode was centered on a town in New York that is known as a haven for mediums. Besides sitting in on another individual’s session, Lisa did her own session where she tried to connect with her beloved grandmother, who died some time ago.

Lisa’s asked her sister, Laura, to join her. As they sat with the medium, trying to conjure that treasured connection, things didn’t seem to be yielding any kind of result to speak of.

Therefore, Lisa pulled out an old-fashioned cassette tape recorder and popped in a tape that contained a recording of her grandmother’s voice. The grandmother was playing the piano and singing a Christian song.

The session didn’t yield any clear moment of “Grandma hovering in the room” or “Grandma’s spirit making itself known” or “Grandma mysteriously conveying through the medium some secret piece of information only Lisa and Laura would know.”

The medium told Lisa and Laura to look for more butterflies as that was  a way the grandmother’s love would manifest itself to them.

***end of five minutes***

I was sort of rooting for a more dramatic moment during the reading (although I have conflicted feelings about that type of thing in general).

Even without a transformational interaction with Grandma’s spirit, I was moved by the reassurance the sisters gained by listening to that old recording.

It’s the kind of reassurance that may alight in their own spirits again, as silently and unexpectedly as a butterfly.

Five Minute Friday Comfort

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

FMF31 2018 Day 29: TOGETHER

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2018 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: TOGETHER

I have been thinking, since the deaths of brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal in Saturday’s shooting in Pittsburgh, of a pair of sisters who went to my hometown church when I was a teenager. They lived together all of their lives, and worship was clearly a primary part of their routine. They always sat toward the front of the synagogue.

I read that Cecil and David made it a practice to greet everyone who walked in the door warmly and enthusiastically. What a comfort that must have been to members of that synagogue, to run into them each time the doors were open and begin their worship knowing they had been acknowledged, greeted, interpersonally embraced.

I tend to do many things by myself. For the lengthy time that I worshiped at St. Francis, I would slip into a back pew. I was still happy to be sharing the service with others, but didn’t necessarily want to be part of the mix.

That all changed when I had children. It changed because a) babies are a people magnet and b) as my children grew older, they were gregarious and pulled me into the social life of the church (whether I wanted to be there or not!).

I (an only child) married someone who is the oldest of six, who tends to be the organizer of groups. There is such a difference between the way we approach gatherings of large groups.

Even though Wayne and I approach that kind of thing differently, neither of us would be the ones to say, let’s get there early and stand there, making sure everyone feels acknowledged and welcomed.

What a loss to the world that Cecil and David will no longer be doing so.

Five Minute Friday Comfort

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

SmartBrief: Open Positions and My Favorite Stories

I never expected events to unfurl the way they did after I left Healthy Kids in May 2014. One of the goals of leaving after working there for almost 20 years was to find a way to  earn a living that aligned more effectively with the things I loved doing.

When my father-in-law moved in with us three weeks later due to a rapid decline in his health, my options became my more limited. We either needed to get full-time care for him both Wayne and I could be working outside the home, or I had to do work from home so we could supervise and care for Dad.

Besides everything I learned about caregiving (and about myself) over that time, I also gained experience about freelance life. The most important result of that period of time is the fact that we were able (hopefully) to give Dad an end-of-life experience that was as comfortable as it could be, given his health issues. Secondly, though, in retrospect, I ended up exactly where I needed to be, as a full-time editor at SmartBrief. It’s funny how life works, right?Digital Journalism Jobs

SmartBrief’s Open Position(s)

SmartBrief now has a similar position to mine open, for a Media Editor.

If you have experience as an editor and an interest in digital journalism, as well as expertise with media news and trends, I encourage you to learn more about the position and apply. (Please use my name as your referral contact. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you have questions.)

The Media Editor position is slated to be in the Washington, D.C., office, but the ideal candidate may be permitted to telecommute.

Note: There are several other open positions in the D.C. office. I assume most of my contacts will be interested in the editor position, but here are the others:

About My Experience

When I was sending an email to a few contacts, to share the open position(s), it occurred to me that some people are not aware of SmartBrief. Therefore, I wrote a bit in the email about my experience and about some of my favorite stories.

This is what I shared. Maybe I’ll come in occasionally and update the “favorite stories” part, in addition to the listings for open positions. We’ll see. For now, this is what I said:

Although I just started as a full-time editor with SmartBrief in September, I was working as a freelance searcher, writer and editor before that (since January 2017).
I know people vary in the path they take to find a job that is rewarding and enjoyable. For me, working as a freelancer because I was still taking care of my father-in-law turned out to be the best of all worlds. It showed me why I wanted to apply for a full-time position and introduced me to a product I believe in wholeheartedly, working with other people who have the same focused commitment.

Here is a link to the listing: http://bit.ly/SBMediaEditor.

If you’re not familiar with SmartBrief, I encourage you to take a look at the various daily newsletters we offer in a variety of industries. To give you a sense of the array of products we offer, here is a bit about my experience.

IBTTA
Digital Journalism Jobs

Photo credit: Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Facebook Page

Sigma Xi
Digital Journalism Jobs

 

Social Work
And true to my mental health/counseling origins, I edit the Social Work SmartBrief. (Favorite story: How animals, nature can amplify social work)

That’s just a sampling (and the “favorite story” exercise is pretty tough, to be honest!). To see everything we do, visit the main site here.

 

To Recap

To follow up on the Media Editor position, click here.

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including our newest, the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, click here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us on Facebook, SmartBrief Twitter, Leadership SmartBrief Twitter, LinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram and Life at SmartBrief Instagram. (There’s also a SmartBrief feature at The Muse.)

Thanks for reading, and I hope to play a part in keeping you informed long into the future!

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

FMF31 2018 Day 28: SONG

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2018 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: SONG

Let’s get this out of the way. I won’t subject you to having to hear me sing for the “song” prompt. (I have sung for the blog once — after 1000+ posts, there isn’t much that is legal that I haven’t done for the blog, it feels like (although skydiving will never happen!)).

As I have been watching coverage of vigils following yesterday’s horrific shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, I have been struck by the fact that music is such an intrinsic part of such times. Maybe because it is the only common language people can use to try to claw their way toward some type of unified expression. Maybe because, as I saw with my father-in-law when the hospice music therapist came to work with him, music reaches some primitive part of the brain that still holds memories, even after other faculties have long since departed.

In my hunt for a Hebrew song to share today, I came across something else that spoke to me, this recording of a musician in a coffee shop (a scene that undoubtedly plays out hundreds of times a day throughout the world) playing Matisyahu’s One Day.

What the musician didn’t realize was that the coffee shop patron who joined in WAS MATISYAHU HIMSELF!

This resonated with me today because it is almost impossible to wrap our heads around events like yesterday. The idea that any divine presence was there at all in such a moment of loss and pure evil is even more remote.

*** end of five minutes ***

I don’t, frankly, have any idea how to reconcile that — where G-d was in this.

I do know that, somehow, G-d is the great author. Just like Matisyahu, the author of One Day (a song also shared during at least one vigil in Pittsburgh), covertly entered into a shared moment with Clint “Kekoa” Alama and lent his voice to the song he himself wrote, this crime must somehow lead us as a nation to a place of more insight, not less. More unity, not further division.

One day this all will change
Treat people the same
Stop with the violence
Down with the hate

~ Matisyahu

Five Minute Friday Song

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

FMF31 2018 Day 27: WHOLE

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2018 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: WHOLE

Now that my daughter is an adult, we have had several conversations that, to me, reflect her growing maturity. Specifically, we have discussed “void-fillers” and the fact that all of us, at one time or another, try to fill a void in our lives with less than healthy choices. Many of those choices end up exacerbating the problem and leading to a further feeling of emptiness.

The conversation usually leads to spirituality, and the fact that our faith choices can lead to a feeling of wholeness. I am so glad she has found that, in her spiritual journey.

I was reading a story yesterday about how methamphetamine is having a resurgence. The context was the fact that much of our focus nationally right now is on the opioid crisis. That focus is necessary too, because the opioid epidemic is posing a significant problem. But meth is now cheaper to get (because it has become a commodity produced in Mexico and transported to the US), without the dangerous “home cooking/meth lab” setup it used to require.

A man quoted for the article said “Until they figure out why people want to get high and use drugs, it’s always going to be something else.” He should know — he is a former meth user himself.

There was deep truth in that statement, a truth that can be extended beyond that situation.

Be honest with yourself about how you are filling your voids today (I’ll try to do the same.)

Five Minute Friday Belong

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.