Many African children can bear witness that the leaders and grownups in their environment don’t do well with criticism, corrections, and feedback. It’s almost like once you tell them to do something differently, you are questioning their authority. I’m not surprised. In this part of the world, respect is tantamount to a good upbringing, and I love both. Respect is in order in every part of the world. The only problem with the African mind is that there is a sense of absoluteness. Don’t get me wrong, they have come a long way in enlightenment and not everyone is that rigid anymore. But, we won’t deny the fact that most Africans are still hell-bent on being the correctors rather than the corrected.
Let’s talk about the leaders who can’t stand youths talking about how bad their governance is, especially in this social media age where accessibility is high. Anyone can say anything and almost get away with it. Our leaders’ egos are fragile. They must be gently stroked, or else every medium can be banned. Or our parents, who, once you tell them the right way to do things or express how you feel, become defensive, almost as if a child has no right to feel anything.
It’s even funny when they come to you because you have been in your shell and they tell you to open up to them. You do, and then they explode, because why would you be angry that they were wrong and you were right?
Let’s not even start with teachers and lecturers who would rather fail you for questioning them than engage in intelligent conversations with you to understand your perspective. This height of rigidity is appalling, and it creates timidity and a lack of confidence in people.
I think tech bosses are doing a great job in terms of feedback and criticism, but you see, those in government parastatals, advertising, the media, and several privately owned establishments are too smart to see when they are wrong. Why would they be wrong?
This article wants to explore the barriers that hinder Africans from being receptive to feedback from other people. This is often a problem with African adults because it seems to question what they know and it appears as if it is disrespectful.
What’s the problem with feedback?
1. A typical human being believes. he is smart enough to understand and handle his issues. It doesn’t even matter if there is someone else who could handle them better. Someone set on his path couldn’t be bothered by what others think. Adults in this environment are seen as fountains of wisdom, and children should listen to them. They often forget this African proverb that says, "a child will always meet an adult at whatever stage the adult is done growing up." There’s always a new perspective on things, as with each new age comes new insights. An elderly person’s wisdom can never be ignored, but a young person’s views will count.
2. A need for control will always cause someone to refuse feedback and criticism because then they are giving others free rein to influence them. Parents are so fond of this, you may hear things like, "so now you are commanding me," or "I gave birth to you," etc. They are right: a child should not command a parent, but a parent should listen. Something happened to me when I was on a call with my niece. She called me a particular name, and I told her to shut up. Well, she called me back and questioned me about telling her to shut up. That was quite bold of her. With the right kind of guidance, she will be great at giving feedback, and with the right kind of people, like me, we won’t tell her to shut up. I mean, I apologised to her. What does that tell you about me?
3. The fight against one's ignorance will always cause resistance to correction. An ignorant person will fight anyone correcting them because then they can maintain the loftiness that ignorance has given them. And as ego is more important than knowledge to some people, correcting them bruises their hard-earned ego, so they will fight. Politicians and lecturers sit comfortably on this throne.
4. The feedback giver isn’t any better, especially when it's not constructive enough or the giver is giving off an I’m-better-than-them vibe. Resistance is not far-fetched. So, when people criticize, they must do so in a way that makes a point without undermining others' sense of right and wrong or causing them to fall short.
African grown-ups aside now, feedback is such a valuable tool for improvement, but not many people are receptive to feedback. Going further, we will go over how one can become more receptive to feedback and use it as a way to grow.
A Shift in Perspective
For an African to be receptive to feedback, it may require a shift in perspective. They need to understand that the goal of receiving feedback is not a personal attack on their beliefs and work.
In most cases, feedback is seen as a comment, and it is usually listened to as a set-up when the person is about to be fired or a mistake has been made.
To shift perspective, one must be willing to learn and to learn, there must be an acceptance that one cannot know it all. I don’t see how these people will shift their perspective though, except maybe through stubborn repetition, but it’s not impossible.
No human being will appreciate being criticised not to talk of outright condemnation, that’s why every piece of feedback should be aimed at building, suggesting, motivating and not tearing down.
Accepting new things and learning about them creates a good progress report. Anyone that has learnt something new and has still not done better has chosen to deliberately not change, and that person is beyond deliverance. Learning from people younger, older, more experienced, and not as experienced as us is a great feedback mechanism.
When it comes to feedback, clarification is not a crime. Anyone who is willing to correct must also be willing to expound. The receiver may ask questions, as it is a sign of receptiveness to feedback, openness, and a willingness to learn.
Feedback, corrections, and criticism are all tools for maximum development. It’s time Africans learned to receive it, not misconstrue it, and learn from it. Anyone giving feedback must do it without being condescending or disrespectful.
We are still Africans, after all, and we will never condone our children telling us to "shut up."