Are You Kidding Me?! How to Give Feeback (and not)

I have been blogging for a couple months now on feedback and the most effective ways to give it. Today I will give an example of the type of feedback often given and the type that is more effective. You will see the difference.

I have been a member of a particular gym for many years. I go primarily for their spin class. I love the people, but they have only 10 bikes and the class is getting pretty popular. I show up earlier and earlier to make sure I get a bike. Their bikes are also pretty old. I am conscious of the choices I have and have chosen to stay at this gym despite the situation. Recently the gym has asked for feedback and of course I have given it to them, explaining I think they need new bikes. They have never responded to me.spin

This weekend they re-floored the spin room. When I arrived today I learned that the spin bikes were moved to a room about 1/6 the size, dark, and with not enough room to work out comfortably. As I rode my bike, I composed the following letter:

Re: Are You Kidding Me?

Dear _____,

This morning I arrived to my spin class and found to my dismay that you have moved us to a different room. First we were in a large spacious room really perfect for our class, and now you have put us in a closet!

I know you don’t care about the cyclers at the gym. I can tell because we have asked you now so many times for new bikes or at least additional bikes, since the bikes we have are falling apart and not safe. I have written feedback to you on a number of occasions, but you never even respond that you have seen it! I can’t even go to cycling class on Wednesdays because I have to arrive 1/2 hour early just to get a bike.

Well the closet is the last straw. We are going to find another gym. If you don’t care enough to keep us safe or even respond to our feedback we are leaving.

Thanks for nothing!

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It was a fun exercise to write this letter in my head and it really passed the time. I allowed myself to really vent.  Sometimes this really is the type of “feedback” we offer others.  However, I know (1) this type of “feedback” will not get me anywhere; and (2) if I am truly unhappy and nothing is changing, the accountable choice is to leave.

So I decided to write the following feedback email, applying the INFO model as follows (http://www.mclarencoaching.com/how-to-give-feedback-part-i/). Inquire: Are they open to feedback? I have been told by a number of people the gym wants feedback so I feel comfortable that this element has been met. Neutral: As you can see from my first letter, I was not neutral. So I vented to a few people and then I asked myself “why do I want to give this feedback?” That really helped me to become neutral. I thought, “Are there appropriate reasons to give this feedback?” (http://www.mclarencoaching.com/are-you-ready-to-give-feedback/) And I realized I had two reasons: (1) they asked for feedback and I wanted to offer it to them for their use or not as they saw fit; (2) yes, I wanted them to change, but I realized that it would be best for me to leave this gym if they would not change this and I wanted to give them a chance to make the change before I left. Once I identified these reasons, I felt much better. Factual and observable? I was mindful to put in the facts, which helped me not “make stuff up” like “it’s obvious you don’t care about the cyclists” in my letter above. But also, my feedback is delivered as “experience” feedback (http://www.mclarencoaching.com/when-is-your-experience-of-another-person-valuable-as-feedback-to-them/), which I did because I perceive that is the type of feedback they were after and I felt it was the type that would make the most difference to them. At the same time, I was mindful not to assume that my experience is everyone’s experience. Here is what I wrote:

Dear ___,

You have in the past asked for feedback and ____ [our spin instructors] have told us that you would like feedback. As you know, I have offered you feedback in the past. I am not sure if you received it or not.

When I arrived at the gym today, I saw that spin class was to be held in Studio B. We were told that you are planning to keep it there. After one morning’s class, I can say to you that I would prefer you move it back to the larger studio. We were so cramped in Studio B that there were certain stretching exercises we could not do because there was not space for us to stretch our arms to the sides. Similarly there were certain cycling exercises we could not do for the same reason. Additionally, there is no air flow in that room and even with fans, many people commented that it was much hotter in that room. I personally felt a little claustrophobic in there.

Thank you for everything you do for your members. Thank you for asking for feedback. I would feel more like you do want it if you responded to me, but I am trusting that you consider what we say.

I know getting new bikes is expensive, but I don’t think it costs anything to move us back to the studio where there is more space and that is what I am asking you to do.

Thank you for your consideration.

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I have offered the feedback as a gift to them both (1) so that they have the information I think they need and (2) so they have the opportunity to keep me as a member.

We’ll see what happens.