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Listen to Lucy-金融时报大名鼎鼎的老牌作者Lucy Kellaway 朗读她的专栏文章,每期约5分钟。个人听写文本,有误请指教。

Feedback on your dinner party chat will do you good

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Just as with other skills, we benefit from clear and direct views that help us improve, says Lucy Kellaway.



eponymous adj 同名的, e.g. eponymous album 同名专辑

muddle through v 混过去,应付过去

strike home v. 击中要害

sharpen up v. 磨砺自己

snooty adj 傲慢的; taciturn adj 沉默寡言的

bottle v 抑制情绪


Sometimes the conversation skips along, more often it drags and faulters. 谈话有时欢快跳跃,有时啰啰嗦嗦。


You go to a formal dinner party. You talk to the person on one side during the starter, the other during the main course. Sometimes the conversation skips along, more often it drags and faulters, you enjoy or endure the evening and then go home. That is, unless you're Robert Hiscox, the founder of the eponymous Insurence Company told me some years ago, at the end of a dinner party, he turned to the people either side and offered a feedback on how he'd found that conversation. He'd say "I enjoyed hearing your views on the EU. But you might've asked me about mine..." or "It was interesting to learn about how well your child did in his A-level's, but you seemed reluctant to discuss other topics? " At the time, I was shocked, how could he be so rude. Mr Hoffcock shocked me that conversing a formal dinner is a skill. It's hard to get back to anything if no one tells you where you're going wrong.

I protested that there was far too much feedback in the world anyway. Sometimes it was nice to be left alone to muddle through. Two things have made me change my mind. The first is that in a year since then I've been to too many dinners and sent next to too many people who were not trying hard enough. The second is the realization that although there is too much useless general feedback- no, I don't want to read my experiences in security at Heathrow Terminal 5- there was almost no specific feedback that helps us improve.

Not long ago, I got an email from a man who had been an audience from a speech I just gave. "You really need to sort that hair- reading glasses challenge", he wrote, "everytime you put your reading glasses on, your hair falls over your left eye, and you then keep * and flick it out away. It looks most amusing but must be awkward. As a regular presenter, I always like to get feedback, hoping you don't mind me pointing it out." I did mind his pointing it out. Unlike him, I never like to get a feedback unless it's entirely positive. And in any case, how dare he, I never asked for his views. Yet his words struck home. It was not nice to think the audience is merryman to be mainly account to my hair. So for the next a few speeches, I printed out my notes in 24 point so I could read them without glasses, and now cut my hair short so that there is no further danger in flicking. On reflection, this man's advice was close to perfection. It was direct, but not rude. It was clear about what was wrong, which was something fixable. It came from a decent addressed source and it was delivered by email, so save my blushes.

Last week, another piece offenseless feedback blended in my inbox. This time it was from someone who's thanking me for talking at a conference he organized. After a gracious start, the email finishes like this: "I always try to add with a tip for improvement . It was a little complicated to get in touch, confirm your travel plans and do your arrangements. So can I suggest you getting an assistant ?" This was also good, and it was clear. Only rather hard to fix it than the hair, as an assistance doesn't come cheap. Still, it told me that my habbit of ignoring adament (?) emails was not on. I've hated the point, and will try to sharpen up.

The test of offenseless feedback is not whether it's rude or unwelcome, but whether it serves the great good. I no longer flip my hair, and committed to apply more prompely, so the world is a happier place.

Sooner after my lunch with Mr Hiscox, I was sent to a dinner next to a well-known snooty broadcaster. Throughout the meal I tried hard to be agreable. He sat there taciturn, looking catatonic (?) as I applied him with question and anecdote. At the end of the evening, I longed to offer him a report card but bottled. I've regreted ever since. I bet if I had explained his poor performance, he would've been at first shocked, and then mortified. I dare say he would've liked me even less, but might've tried hard in future. Next time, I'm going for it.