Delivering feedback, training with the National Theatre

Posted 22.02.16 by prhcareers

“It was a treat to have to engage with ideas and theory that are not part of my everyday work life.”


Hello, Beth – tell us a little bit about yourself and your role

I have worked in the editorial department of the Vintage division for nearly 15 years, starting off as an assistant at Chatto & Windus and Yellow Jersey Press, then moving on to Vintage paperbacks, and then latterly commissioning at Jonathan Cape and Vintage. After my third (and final!) stint of maternity leave, I came back in June last year to a new role, responsible for the day to day running of the Vintage paperbacks editorial team. It’s my dream job: working with a wonderful team and the very best authors of fiction and non-fiction.

Tell us about the course – what does it focus on and how is the day structured?

The course was called ‘Delivering Feedback’. It took place in an echoing rehearsal space at the National Theatre on the Old Vic site and was run by Al Nedjari, whose background was in acting and theatre direction. We were asked to attend wearing clothes that would allow for action and experimentation, which rather filled my heart with dread. But whilst it’s true that there were some aspects of the course that were very practical, Al’s running of it was really inspired. The day kicked off with exercises around increasing self-awareness and heightening group communication: at the start these felt like surprisingly tricky games of patta-cake, but by the end the importance of being present, not over-thinking, switching off the over-analytical parts of our brains had become strikingly clear.

We then moved on to the more theoretical part of the day – learning about transactional analysis and the idea that the nature of our communication is the response to one of three ‘ego-states’ we inhabit (bear with me). In lay terms this is the Parent/Adult/Child model that most encounters fall into – the trick is to aim to be an adult, rather than a parent or child. And we learnt about ‘non-violent communication’ theory, as expounded by a former US peace negotiator. This all sounds very obvious, and a bit jargon-y, but in fact it was very revealing to look at how these models play out in many given situations.

Finally we took real examples of potentially tricky conversations or encounters, and, applying the theory we’d learnt over the day, worked out useful ways to navigate them.

What was the thing you enjoyed the most about it?

I found the theoretical side of the day totally fascinating; it was a treat to have to engage with ideas and theory that are not part of my everyday work life.

What are your top takeaways?

It was compelling to see, in a series of practical examples, just how important being direct and giving other people undivided attention is.

Anything surprising about what you learnt?

I think I’d heard this before, I was amazed again by that statistic that claims that something like 90% of our communication is non-verbal.



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