“I don’t know how to give feedback” keeps coming up in my individual and group coaching. Shying away from giving feedback is at its core about the fear of damaging a relationship, demotivating an employee, or the like. In short, changing a relationship for the worse, not the better. And I wonder if, like me, you sometimes shy away from giving feedback, because of the chance of being made wrong and receiving unwonted feedback in return.
Giving feedback means taking a risk.
Feedback is risky. That’s why most people don’t enjoy it. There’s enough advice out there on how to give good feedback, but while those tips are helpful, they overlook that the barrier to edgy conversations is often not so much a lack of technique as of courage.
That’s why feedback often is given only when some bubble of frustrations finally bursts. And then it comes out too forceful to be of any help. No experience that incentivizes repetition. Most people therefore prefer to withdraw from the scene when noticing frustration welling up. More often than not they then start talking about the offender behind their back. I personally believe this to be more harmful than an outburst, but dishonesty is ranked as preferable to showing emotions. How about a third way?
On the other side of feedback lies the promise of a better relationship.
Brené Brown tells us to enter edgy conversations without having laid out our arguments in order to win. To really listen to what the other says without forming the counter-argument in our minds while they speak. This considerably slows down a conversation – sometimes painfully so – and it creates space for reflective dialogue. This can turn feedback into an exploration. No doubt: We make ourselves vulnerable by having such conversations.
Vulnerability is where belonging is born.
In relationships where I feel safe and appreciated, and where we practice showing up vulnerably, magic happens. When something bothers one or the other, even when one of us is triggered, a slow, explorative conversations leads to the co-creation of more intimate, deeper connection and appreciation. The conversation shifts from You and I and invites Us.
Simple structures make such conversations possible.
For the benefit of both private and office relationships. And it is so worth the initial risk.