Years ago, my friend Dr Aimee Blackledge shared with me one of the most useful rules for receiving feedback I’ve ever come across. There are lots of models and ideas about giving feedback, but not so many concepts for receiving feedback. The model Aimee shared with me is one I’ve found helpful for a long time.
If one person tells you something, that’s their opinion. If two people tell you, that could be coincidence. If three people tell you, you should listen!
One, two, three – opinion, coincidence, listen! This has been really helpful for me; I know it’s helped many more people Aimee has shared it with, particularly when receiving negative feedback (constructive or otherwise). Sometimes a piece of feedback is just one person’s opinion. They didn’t like it, maybe for really valid reasons, but that’s just their opinion.
For the viva, this is useful when considering feedback directly – from your supervisors in advance, from your examiners on the day – but I think we can also connect it to expectations as well. If you hear bad things about the viva, who told you? How many people have told you that they had a bad experience? How many people have told you that their viva was fine? What have people said about the details, the format, the structure?
Pay attention to what people say about viva experiences. One person’s detail is just a single experience. If two people tell you about a certain feeling or question that comes up, that could be coincidence. If three or more people tell you about the same aspect of the viva, then you need to listen.
And maybe you need to do something.