• Positive Feedback Round

    by  • February 26, 2015 • Essays • Comments Off on Positive Feedback Round

    Promotion photo from Lajvlabbet. Photo by Emmelie Nordström.

    Promotion photo from Lajvlabbet. Photo by Emmelie Nordström.

    The positive feedback round is an exercise you can do after larps or gaming sessions. The exercise gives everyone an opportunity to both give and receive positive feedback. The purpose of the exercise is both to improve your gaming skills, build a culture of communication and trust, and learn how to give and receive feedback. In this article I will describe how to do the exercise and I will also try to answer some common questions and concerns.
    The positive feedback round can be used after larps, tabletop roleplaying games, story games and freeform games alike as well as many other situations.

    Positive Feedback Round

    Time required: 20-30 minutes
    Group size: 5-6 people

    Introducing the exercise

    Positive feedback rounds is always a voluntary activity. Explain the exercise, ask who would like to join and respect those who disincline. Those who want to join sits down in a circle where everyone can see each other. You can sit around a table or on the floor in a circle, as long as people can make eye contact. Introduce and explain the exercise to the group, especially if someone is unfamiliar with it. During positive feedback rounds one person is sitting quietly while the rest of the group gives the silent player positive feedback. After a while you move on to the next person.

    Start by deciding who will receive feedback first. I recommend picking someone at random, or ask if someone is willing to go first. Then you are ready to get started.

    The door is always open

    During the exercise it is always to okay to leave the group, without having to explain why you do so. It is okay to come back after a while. You can also remain with the group and say “pass” if you don’t want to speak. No one has to speak if they don’t want to. It is also okay to say no to getting any positive feedback yourself or to brake the exercise if you feel uncomfortable.

    Giving positive feedback

    When giving positive feedback during this exercise it is important that you try to keep the positive feedback as concrete as possible. The positive feedback should be about things the player did, not about personal qualities. Telling the other player “You are a good player” is bland, but saying “When you threw yourself out of the bathroom and screamed, I thought you were hurt for real” is vivid and tells the other player something useful.

    Give players positive feedback about things they did, what their character said, what great scenes they created, the cool actions they took, their character’s body language, how amazing the costume looked and so on. Connect everything you say to actions they did. Be concrete.

    During the positive feedback round everyone gets to speak without being interrupted. The group should take turns speaking, in whatever order they like. Someone might mention something they thought was good, then someone else might speak up  in agreement and elaborate on what they really like, while a third person might give feedback on something unrelated… And so on. As long as no one gets interrupted and everyone gets a chance to speak, people can speak in whatever order they like. During this exercise everyone can give as many comments as they can come up with.

    Don’t be afraid of repetition. If someone says something great that you agree with, do say that you agree and then repeat in your own words what you appreciated about it. It helps the receiver to hear that many people appreciated the same thing. Thank the receiver for participating and for the things you liked.

    It is worth noting that often when you start with a new person there will be a few seconds of silence when people are putting thier thoughts into words. This silence can often feel a bit scary for the person who is getting the positive feedback.

    Receiving positive feedback

    The player who’s receiving positive feedback must sit quietly. The player can smile, make gestures and respond by body language but may not comment or reply verbally to the positive feedback. (Using sign language counts as cheating.) This is important: the person may not reply or speak up while it is their turn to receive positive feedback.

    Moving on

    When it seems like the group feels they are finished with giving the current person feedback you ask the group “Do we have any more postive feedback for X, or should we move on to the next person?” If there are no more comments on the current person, move on to the next person. Then it’s the next person’s turn to sit quietly and receive feedback. Make sure everyone in the group gets as much positive feedback as everyone else. How to do this will be addressed later in the article.

    When the group has finished exchanging positive feedback, you’re done with the exercise. Wrap it up by thanking the other players for doing the exercise. Often people want to linger and just chitchat informally for a while.

    A version of the exercise for social media

    If there isn’t time to do the positive feedback round after a game or larp you can do it online. You can start the discussion by posting something like this:

    This is a voluntary positive feedback thread. If you want to join you post a comment with “I want positive feedback on how I played my character X.” Those who want to give you positive feedback post thier responses as a reply to that comment.

    When giving positive feedback during this exercise it is important that you try to keep the positive feedback as concrete as possible. The positive feedback should be about things the player did, not about personal qualities. Telling the other player “You are a good player” is bland, but saying “When you threw yourself out of the bathroom and screamed, I thought you were hurt for real” is vivid and tells the other player something useful.

    Give players positive feedback about things they did, what their character said, what great scenes they created, the cool actions they took, their character’s body language, how amazing the costume looked and so on. Connect everything you say to actions they did. Be concrete.

    This discussion is just for positive feedback, it is important to stay on topic and don’t start discussing other things here. Other discussions can be held in other threads.

    Other this is enough to get thing going, but you are of course allowed to link to this article as an extra support. Those who join the positive feedback thread online tend to enjoy them. A challenge with the online version is seeing to that everyone get the same amount of positive feedback. Because not everyone have the same opportunity to spend time online discussion the larp afterwards. One way to try to adress this is that the person that started discussion participate a lot on the thread to get the discussion going.

    Promotion photo from Lajvlabbet. Photo by Emmelie Nordström.

    Promotion photo from Lajvlabbet. Photo by Emmelie Nordström.

    Common questions and concerns

    Why must the person receiving positive feedback be silent?

    Because otherwise it doesn’t work. We are socialized to dodge, minimize and deflect praise. This is especially true for some cultures and for feminine gender roles. To counter this, the person receiving the positive feedback must remain silent and just listen. It also helps people speak up if they know the person will not dodge or try to deflect the compliments.

    What if someone gets a lot of positive feedback, while someone else gets very little?

    This is an important and valid concern. It is a good thing that you ask yourself that question. In my experience positive feedback rounds help everyone get a fair share of positive feedback. Especially compared to the feedback people give each other during informal after-game chatter, where some can get a lot while others get very little.

    Groups doing this exercise usually see that everyone gets a fair share. When introducing the exercise, tell everyone that it’s important that everyone got an equal share of positive feedback. Of course this isn’t an exact science. Perhaps the shy newbie needs a bit more attention than the experienced players. Fairness is not about the exact number of comments but that everyone walks away from the exercise feeling that they got a fair share.

    Giving positive feedback to players you didn’t interact much with

    In some games, especially larps, you usually interact more with some players and less with others. As long as two players had some meaningful interaction, they can usually give each other some kind of positive feedback. But the feedback will usually cover different things between players that only had a little interaction compared to players that had a lot of interaction. For example, you might have something to say about the character’s body language  if you mostly saw a character at a distance.

    “We didn’t talk a lot to each other during the game, but I really like how you played Alice’s emotions. I could read Alice’s mood at a distance just by hearing the sound of her footsteps. I knew when to get out of her way from a mile away. That was really cool.”

    Getting that kind of feedback from someone you didn’t interact with much can be huge ego boost. It is also useful concrete feedback. So even if you interacted a only a little you can still give feedback on the things you did notice.

    What if I don’t have anything to say?

    Sometimes you really appreciated another player’s performance but have a hard time putting it into words. If this happens just say “I really liked the way you played but I have a hard time putting it into words. Does someone else have something to say while I try to find the right words?” That usually helps, because usually someone else will say something smart you agree with and that will help you find the right words.

    Sometimes you found another player’s behavior disruptive and annoying and will have a hard time finding nice things to say about it for that reason. This can be hard but it is especially important that you find something to praise in this case: this is a way to encourage them to be a better player. Try to find something they did, no matter how small, that you liked. Perhaps they were a great listener at some point? Perhaps they told a joke that made you laugh? Perhaps you admired their costuming? Perhaps they were helpful cleaning up?  Try to find something. What are the player’s strengths? What could make them a great player one day?

    If you really can’t come up with anything to say, thank the other player for participating in the game.

    Game size

    Positive feedback rounds work best after small games where everyone had time to interact with everyone else. If the game is small enough, you can divide the participants into positive feedback groups any way you like, because all players will have things to tell each other.

    The situation is different a for larger games. At a larp with 300 players you only have time to interact with a fraction of the other players. Positive feedback rounds can be hard to manage after a large game for this reason. If you are running a larger game I would not recommend that you try to organize positive feedback rounds, unless can you can split the game into smaller groups that you know had a lot of interaction with each other and can make sure no one feels left out. After larger games it is better that players initiate this exercise on their own in whatever groups they feel comfortable with if they want to do it.

    Group size

    In my experience 5-6 people is a good group size for this exercise, but you can do it in both smaller and larger groups as well. Just keep in mind: the more the group grows, the longer is the time required. Why? The larger the group is the more players there are to praise, hence each extra member means an additional turn. Each turn will also be longer because there more players that want to give positive feedback about each person as well. More turns*Longer turns=Requires a lot more time.

    Why only positive feedback?

    Both positive and negative feedback is a valuable learning tool, but this exercise includes only positive feedback. There are a couple of reasons for that.

    Firstly, this exercise trains players to both give and receive feedback of all kinds. While we only do positive feedback during the exercise the skills learned work for both positive and negative feedback. It is just as important to keep negative feedback as concrete as possible, for example.

    Secondly, this exercise make you more comfortable with both giving and receiving feedback. After doing positive feedback rounds a couple of times you will be more comfortable asking for constructive negative feedback when you want it.

    Thirdly, getting negative feedback is sensitive. Even if you want negative feedback it might not be the right time or place to receive it right after a game. You might be emotionally exhausted or perhaps you don’t feel comfortable getting it from a group of people.

    Hence, while both positive and negative feedback is great, the positive feedback round only includes positive feedback because most players will be more able to cope better with negative feedback outside a formal exercise, when they’re ready to ask for it. If you want negative feedback as well I recommend that you ask for it after the exercise.

    Isn’t this exercise scary?

    Yes, the positive feedback round can be kind of scary. But in a good way. In my experience people walk away from this exercise feeling that it was a very positive experience, even if it is a bit scary to get a lot of compliments.

    In conclusion

    For me, this is one of my favorite exercises to do after a game or during a debriefing. It is nice to both give and receive positive feedback, but the exercise also helps in building trust. It helps create a culture where we communicate, support each other and pay attention to each other. If you do this exercise regularly you learn to pay attention in a positive way to what you appreciate in what others do, both so you can tell them during the positive feedback round, as well as help you learn from them.

    In conclusion: Positive feedback rounds rock. I hope you’ll try it out.

     


     

    Thanks to Wadoud Stål, Rugerfred, Joshua Fox, James Wallis, Devon Apple, Eva Schiffer, Truls Ljungström and  NordNordOst for feedback and help with editing.

     

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    About

    Elin Dalstål is a game designer, larp and convention organizer living in Luleå, Sweden.

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