Feedback. It’s a word that gets used a lot particularly when we are talking about interpersonal communication, conflict, change, even decision making. But what is it and what’s all the fuss about?
Surely, if you need to tell someone something you just tell them! How they take it is up to them.
It seems that we are becoming more and more concerned about the impact of what we are telling someone rather than just unloading when what they do gets to a point where we just have had enough.
And from my perspective a good thing too. Essentially feedback is a way of closing the communication loop or of keeping it open as we go through the experience of learning about how our intentions – as we communicate – impact others.
Creating a space where people feel safe enough to talk about things that are impacting on them without fear of retribution (read Trump v Pelosi recently) and where understanding the way our words, body language and residual emotional load play a part in limiting or expanding our ability to build effective relationships, is critical to our becoming more responsive and less reactive. It is also part of our journey into true emotional intelligence and self-awareness.
When was the last time someone gave you feedback and your first response was to push back, get defensive and either argue or walk away and – importantly, why did that happen? As an observation, it’s not even so much the message itself, more often it’s in the way that the feedback has been delivered.
We get nervous when we think about telling someone something that they need to know about what they are doing and how they go about it. We will have a conversation in our heads about what could happen when we tell them, that usually cascades into an internal verbal battle about what will and won’t happen, what they will do in response, what we need to do to prepare to combat that and so when we get to the point where we actually talk to the person we are coming in all guns loaded.
If we step back from that and consider our responsibilities as a colleague, friend, mentor, family member or whatever the relationship, if we aren’t telling people what they need to know in order to change (and doing in a way that they can hear you) then you are as responsible for that behaviour as the person doing it.
How do we do this and not allow our emotions to get in the way? From learning over time and many poor experiences here’s a way to check-in with yourself prior to having the conversation.
Ask yourself “What is my intention here?”, “Am I focused on being here in the moment not distracted by other things?”, “Am I authentic – willing to speak my truth?”, “Am I being responsible to myself, to my role and to you?”, “Am I clear in what I want to communicate?” and “Am I willing to listen and to learn?”
My view is that if we come with curiosity rather than judgement, we can limit the amount of conflict that occurs. People do appreciate being given feedback and we all know we need it from time to time. You can only try.