actors-receiving-feedback.jpgWhen you’re auditioning, it is common for the casting director to advise you to try your reading a different way such as, “Can you add more enthusiasm?” or “Let’s see a bit more surprise.” But sometimes the feedback given is less directed at your performance, and more pointed at you as an actor. For everyone it can be different, but the feedback may sound like, “I see you’ve been taking classes for five years but, sorry, I’m not seeing any evidence of it,” or “Were you trying to be funny? Because that wasn’t funny–at all. You better learn some comedic skills.” Rudely spoken or politely muttered, this kind of feedback can hurt! Nobody has a crystal ball to predict your acting future as some casting professionals would lead you to believe; you know, the Simon-Cowell type who professes he or she knows the business and informs you that you’re just not cutting it for whatever reason. But remember, Burt Reynolds was once fired due to “having no talent;” Clint Eastwood was likewise fired because his “Adam’s apple was too big;” Lucille Ball was encouraged to give up on her show-biz dreams by instructors; and casting professionals repeatedly passed over Naomi Watts describing her as “not sexy,” “too intense,” and “desperate.” Did these four mega-stars allow this kind of discouraging advice to stop them?

 So how much feedback is wise to take to heart and how much is best to disregard? This can be an art in and of itself. According to the book Thanks for the feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, authored by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, “Receiving feedback sits at the intersection of two needs–our drive to learn, and our longing for acceptance.” They go on to describe how these two drives pull us in two different internal directions, creating tension that can have a profound influence on the choices we make in our lives. But a key way to manage the strain and minimize the stress associated with feedback is to approach it as something you actually seek–rather than something you dread and avoid. In literature, it’s referred to as feedback-seeking behavior, and those who live by this quality have been associated with exhibiting more creativity at work, more satisfaction in their jobs, they are known to adapt more quickly, and tend to stick with their career paths for longer. For those who struggle with feedback, it’s promising to note that after their research on the subject, Stone and Heen believe that the ability to receive feedback well “is not an inborn trait but a ‘skill’ that can be cultivated.”

Actor or not, everyone receives feedback throughout their lives–and it’s something we all struggle with to varying degrees. But when you consider how actors lay it all on the line every time they enter the audition room, and open themselves up to feedback constantly, this book is a practical guide with many examples that may be helpful in developing good communication skills, healthy ways to receive feedback, and help you see that you’re far from alone in the struggle. Feedback is an essential and necessary part of the acting game; it’s worth mastering its nuances and complexities sooner rather than later. After all, it potentially carries a lot of weight in shaping your future.