I am writing to you today because I have seen into your soul and it is filled with a universe of starlight & possibility. I am giving you this feedback, because I know you, deep in my bones, and I know that you are capable of so much more.
You have been lied to, led astray, and let down. You have been conditioned for your position. That is, every cumulative experience of success or failure, has led to the life you now lead. Many people believe that they are not getting the results they deserve, but the truth is you are getting the results you’ve designed. In your finance, health, career… and yes, in your relationship.
There are two betrayals that wreak more havoc in your life than any other;
* A lack of criteria for success
* Emotional charge when giving & receiving feedback.
Neither of these are your fault, my beloved. The system is flawed. The system is fucked. These are learned behaviours that have kept you safe, and given you the significance you have always craved. Some of us feel significant when we are perfect. And for those high achievers, there is rarely a moment of rest. Some of us feel significant when we are failing, those are the times when we get the most support from our tribe, when we aren’t coping. Whatever it is for you, it is pure drama cycle. Hello! Oh, there’s that old shit coming up again.
I have found the most gruelling of challenges, and the sweetest of rewards through becoming a student of The Art of Feedback. I trust that you too will love the fruits of your labour.
I am both horrified & saddened when I hear the way that most people give feedback. No wonder their partners, families, and colleagues are so resistant to change!
And you know what’s really happening? It’s not them. It’s you.
Before you can even consider giving feedback, you have to learn to receive.
There are only three steps. To truly master them is the work of a lifetime.
STEP 1: BE THE OBSERVER
There’s a few ways this thing can play out. One path drops you right down into drama; The Victim (responds to feedback with tears, reduced self esteem, or shuts down), The Aggressor (responds to feedback with anger, defensiveness, blame), and The Rescuer (responds to feedback by assuming all responsibility just to smooth things over).
STEP 2: SMILE AND SAY “THANK YOU”
Literally. Smile, nod your head, and say “Thank you”. Say “Yes” a lot. The whole time you are receiving feedback, thank you and yes. “You’re right”. “I agree”. Repeat.
You don’t always have to agree with the feedback, but you MUST understand that what you are hearing is that persons perception. Maybe you could step up your criteria to include not only that you get your result, but that the other person also experiences that result.
STEP 3: LISTEN CAREFULLY. DON’T SPEAK.
Unless you are saying thank you, yes, you’re right, or I agree (see Step Two).
Often, we think that we can clarify things during feedback. Perhaps we have already heard this same information. Or maybe there were “circumstances beyond your control”. Suck it up, this is not the time.
Seek to hear all that is said to you. Take notes. Absorb. Notice the exact words. The tonality. The nuances of this feedback. It is the most valuable gift you will ever receive.
STEP 1: BE THE OBSERVER
This step is repeated for both giving & receiving, because it is the most important. If you are experiencing an emotional response, then this is not the right time to give feedback. Heightened emotion can be a clue that you are about to trigger the drama cycle! Take responsibility for your own emotional state.
Take a breath, take a moment. Give some interim feedback “I’m feeling a bit (emotional), and would really like to talk a little more about this. Can we chat in an hour after I’ve been for a walk?”
STEP 2: FACE YOUR FUTURE
Sitting over the table, looking at your partner while you talk about your challenges… Rookie error! You are taking an adversarial position by going metaphorically head-to-head. The best position is side-by-side, and it is even better if you have movement. Take a walk so that you are moving side by side and facing your future together.
STEP 3: COMMUNICATE CLEARLY
Ask permission, and then state the outcome you desire. Describe a specific moment, and how that was different to the desired outcome for you. Suggest another approach.
“Is it cool if I give you some feedback?” [permission] There must be a yes here!
“I love it when we work together to solve problems [desired outcome], and this morning when you were speaking over me I felt like you weren’t listening [specific moment]. It didn’t feel like we were a team [difference] It would mean a lot to me if you could check whether I have finished before you start to talk.”
Now check in – “Does that make sense? Do you have any questions about what I have just said?”
STEP 1: CHECK YOURSELF
That is, check in with yourself. Clarify “What was the outcome I desired in that moment?” If the feedback you received indicates a different outcome, then it is simple: Find a new approach.
Whilst it might feel unfair, unreasonable, inconceivable, that you should be the one to change, the truth is you must.
The law of requisite variety states: whomever has the most behavioural flexibility controls the system. Another way of saying that is, if you can immediately implement your feedback, you will get your desired outcome more often.
STEP 2: IDENTIFY CONTENT
Here’s where you read between the lines. You don’t need to eat the feedback in exactly the form it was delivered. Chew it. Taste it. Notice the elements that combine to create the final message. What that means is you need to take some time to think about your feedback. Wonder to yourself “What is it, that if I understood the underlying meaning, that I can learn from this”. For advanced players – you can go ahead and check with that person.
STEP 3: IDENTIFY CONTEXT
You have received feedback in a specific context. It may be a role, a conversation, a presentation. Perhaps it is at work from a colleague, maybe it’s at home with your partner, or it could even be an exchange with a stranger.
Notice that in that specific context the feedback is true (their perception is your shared reality!) And now here’s the stretch. Ask yourself “In what other context do I also behave in this way?”
STEP 4: DO THE THING! Calibrate results. Repeat. Implement the feedback by changing your approach. Notice: Did my results change? Do it again.
I had a moment this week where someone in my life let me know very clearly that calling him “dude” was inappropriate. I moved through all of the above. The “you’re a wanker” phase provided me with hilarity for about four hours. Slowly, it filtered through my overblown ego that I had offended him. And that was a real dick move on my part.
I desired an outcome of a harmonious working relationship. I had distanced him & caused offence. I also realised that he was right, I was demonstrating a lack of respect in that moment. In truth, I was FEELING disrespect, and my über casual language displayed it.
Guess what? I do this in many contexts. Who woulda thunk. That offhand comment on his part has given me such a valuable lesson, and made me a more mature & respectful communicator.
I noticed today I said “dude” to a friend about 4000 times. I’m a work in progress!
BTW – every time you implement feedback you are becoming the most wonderful version of your best self.