Here’s something I read in an e-newsletter today from Crucial Conversations (June 1, 2011 Vol. 9 Issue 22) written by Joseph Grenny that relates directly to a rejection notice I received last week:
Dialogue does not mean everyone is happy at the end. It just means they are able to hear you and understand your point of view—and in the end, see how a “reasonable, rational, decent person” might think what you think—even if they disagree. There are times when your conversation might lead someone to revise their view of themselves, their world, etc. and that revision can be painful.
Another way of describing this kind of feedback is something I learned while attending a Diversity conference in Boston years ago (which I now teach my students). Feedback that overcomes the self-esteem issues of victims of stereotyping is the kind that is challenging and realistic—as opposed to the more normal unchallenging or the more painful, unrealistic. When people are willing to tell us what we do well AND how we can improve, we are given a new vision of ourselves, an achievable vision if we make the effort.
Here’s my example: My four month wait for a response from a prominent publisher ended last week. When I requested some direction on whether I needed to strengthen my story or choose a different market, she graciously responded “Sadly, I don’t think I helped you by saying we don’t acquire novellas and suggesting you work toward a longer word count. My hunch is that this was a much stronger story at its original length. Just because you can add content, doesn’t mean you should.”
Her feedback, though not what I wanted to receive, let me preserve my hope for being published through a specific correction. Soon I will offer a revised manuscript as a shorter but catchier story.