Life

Lynette Fay: Let's take care with 'feedback' we give high-profile women – or anyone

Informed, constructive opinion/feedback is thought provoking and can ignite change. I wonder, though, what purpose vitriolic name calling and personal criticism is serving?

Sara Cox, one of the three female presenters to take on a prime time Radio 2 slot

IT WAS a big week in the world of radio. No less than three women – THREE women – began broadcasting daily, Monday-to-Friday radio programmes on BBC Radio 2, the most listened-to radio station in the UK.

I think that this is amazing. I have worked in radio for years and, sadly, I can still count the number of women who have prime time daily shows on networks across the island of Ireland on one hand. I was very excited on Monday. I listened to all three shows that day, and again at various times during the week.

Well done to the Three Musketeers, Zoe Ball, Sara Cox and Jo Whiley.

A scan through Twitter on Monday morning brought with it the inevitable sigh of disappointment. The listening public had made their minds up about whether these shows were good or bad within the first few minutes of their airing. Personally, I think that it’s impossible to do that.

They were all nervous. I loved that. It showed that they are human.

I honestly don’t know what I think of any of the programmes – yet. They’re all trying out new things. I will reserve judgment and give them a chance to ‘bed in’ to the new slots and shows. At least that is what I told myself on Monday.

I then asked myself, why must I judge at all? We’re all very keen to deliver judgment on everything, aren’t we?

I understand that working in the public eye means that you will inevitably endure more scrutiny than those in other jobs. However, what became very clear to me this week is that we are all very quick to offer an opinion on everything. These days we often choose social media platforms as a way to offer this feedback and it can be done in seconds. Do we really think about the opinions and feedback we offer?

That word. Feedback. The thought of it used to give me panic attacks. After a while, I realised that it wasn’t the word itself that was filling me with anxiety. It was the way in which the ‘feedback’ was delivered.

Very often how I accepted or heard the feedback also depended on who was relating their opinion to me and also, on what was going on in my life at that particular time.

The truth is that we all have opinions on everything. If you’re reading this column, you have an opinion on what you are reading. It’s what you do with that opinion that counts. If we choose to articulate an opinion, how will we choose to do that and how will it be heard?

A degree of empathy is required when dealing with feedback. We are all human and most of us have feelings.

No-one ever wants to read or hear negative things about themselves. Sometimes we need to hear the downside in order to improve. Tough love packs a punch and we are more accepting of hearing harsher truths from people we love, like and respect – at a time and in a place that is appropriate.

Social media platforms, however, are machines and the nature of the debate they encourage can sometimes be robotic and often idiotic.

So the ‘feedback’ and opinion have been interesting this week, on a number of levels. For the most part, women have dominated the headlines. On Monday it was Zoe, Sara and Jo. On Tuesday it was Theresa and Arlene.

Constructive feedback on the Theresa and Arlene show is that fact and fiction must always be called out and corrected. There is no doubt that there was a hard border here during the Troubles. To deny that there was is to be very disingenuous to people who were affected in any way by its existence.

Regardless, opinions and feedback about the work of all these women have dominated the media this week. I wonder how, on a personal level, they deal with this. Can they avoid it? Do they listen only to family, close friends and colleagues? If they’ve read or heard negative comments about themselves, how do they find the strength and resilience to power through?

Informed, constructive opinion/feedback is thought provoking and can ignite change. I wonder, though, what purpose vitriolic name calling and personal criticism is serving?

Change and transition can be difficult, but aren’t they necessary and inevitable? Does anything last forever? Perhaps it’s time that we evaluated how we deal with change that is going to come.

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