When someone provides you feedback, how do you absorb their words? Do you open your mind with a positive energy of "How can I make that work?" or do you respond with "I like your ideas, BUT . . ." and immediately share why you cannot or will not utilize their idea(s)?
Recently, I was sharing on a college e-mail listserve how schools can utilize our "Pledge for Action" during Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April. At the time, the pledge was called the "Pledge to Protect." We have been utilizing this pledge for over a 1.5 years. Through this e-mail exchange on the listserve, one of the members shared how she did not like the word "Protect" in the pledge’s title because of the Patriarchal meanings and connotations of that specific word. No one was questioning the content of the pledge — just the name.
We had a choice. We could say to ourselves, "It is one person and this pledge has been extremely effective. If we make this change, we would have to get new websites, change all the current information we send out, and make lots of other updates." The other option we had was to ask the entire listserve, "What if we change the name to ‘Pledge for Action’ which requires signers to commit to taking real action? What do you all think of this idea?"
We chose to open this question to the entire listserve and the feedback was OVERWHELMING — we kept hearing "WE LOVE THE CHANGE to Pledge for Action!!" (www.pledge4action.org).
From that change, another colleague of mine suggested, "Mike, with this new name, I can envision a pin people can wear year-round that says, ‘Pledge for Action’ and it would be a die-cast pin (like a National Honor Society pin in high school) so it would be sharp looking." The "Pledge for Action" pins have now been ordered. We have a pin designed in the shape of the logo used on the pledge with the wording "Pledge for Action" across the front. Plus, we have a new t-shirt coming out which is designed specifically for the pledge!
All of this change happened because one person shared their opinion with us. If we had discarded their e-mail, we would have lost out on improving an already successful educational campaign. The new changes are going to help us get this campaign out to many more populations, especially with schools, communities, and organizations being able to use the pins and the shirts in conjunction with the signing of the pledge.
The surprising part of this experience were the amount of e-mails saying, "Thanks, Mike, for being willing to listen to change. Most people would not have opened up this conversation about their own work." To me, it seems like the only choice. How can you ask students and communities to open their minds — while you keep yours closed to helpful feedback?
Who will you ask for their ideas today? What positive changes will you make? Join us in our newest change and sign the pledge at www.pledge4action.org.