Sunday, January 8, 2012

A gift

The holiday season is ending and many of us have had the joy of giving and receiving gifts. We all know the difference between a gift given by obligation and one where the person genuinely thought of our well being. I wanted to write today about feedback, a gift that we often have difficulty receiving as well as giving.

Thinking of feedback as a gift has helped me a lot. It explains why most people complain that they are never heard when they try to express important things.

We are used to being told what we have done wrong. In recent years a lot of advice has been written to focus on what we want instead of what we don't want, to also give praise not just criticism. So we have three options praise, criticism or information about what the other person wants from us.  

Faced with critiques most people defend themselves. Not conducive to being heard. And it's maddening because lets face it we can't always only give positive feedback sometimes it is the other persons interest that we give them feedback about something that isn't working. Praise can be appreciated but again not if the other person does not feel it is genuinely given without strings attached.

Information about what the other person wants (example: Whisper in the corridors instead of don't talk so loud.) is an effective strategy to have in our communication toolbox. What I am writing about today is a way to greatly increase the chances you have of being heard when you try to communicate something and of hearing what others are trying to say to you.

Giving the gift of feedback implies that you slow down and think before talking and that you only choose to talk if what you have to say will enhance the other persons life. As with any gift it's the intention that counts. I have found it very helpful to ask if a person is available to hear me before offering feedback and letting them know where I am coming from "I hope that what I have to say will help you get better results, reach your goals, support you"

The intention of offering what you have to say as a gift also implies that once the gift is given it is absolutely the other persons to do with as they would like. Sometimes when people see me as menacing in the context of my work I will hand them a paper let's say about Love languages and say "I am giving you this as a gift, it is your's to do with as you wish. you can keep it, you can write on it, you can throw it in the garbage if you wish, my job is to give it. What you do afterwards is up to you" Having worked in contexts where people are not voluntary I have gotten used to the fact that what I have to say sometimes ends up in the garbage (literally). Often though they grumble and end up at least glancing at what I have given them.

Feedback is a subject that could take up many blogs because it is such a valuable skill and is really worth thinking about. I really appreciate this opportunity to write, it helps me to clarify and integrate what I have learned.

The gift metaphor is valuable because no matter how awkwardly or imperfectly we may say something if the underlying intention is to offer a gift the form used will not matter as much. The metaphor also helps me to understand that when someone levels criticism at me I can choose to hear the gift that they are offering and not get defensive and cut the connection with the other person. It helps me to hear them even when they are saying things that are hurtful.      

My body is giving me feedback that it is time to go to bed. Goodnight!

No comments:

Post a Comment