In the last post, Maire wrote about feedback and the emotional reaction that we can have at the mere mention of it. Captains of industry have indeed said that if we have the right attitude to it, we expand our awareness and accelerate our growth. This has been proven time and time again to be sound and wise advice – so what gets in our way to being open to the feedback we receive?
I have researched this topic as I have been fascinated for many years by what allows some people to see the power of the feedback received and what gets in the way of others.
During my research I came across some interesting thoughts on human interactions from Cambridge University Press.
Among the reasons why they see feedback as being important, is a key trend in their article – this trend being Communication. The points in the article by Bob Dignen (author of Communicating Across Cultures) are as follows:
#1 Feedback is there all the time
“…Feedback is around us all the time. Every time we speak or listen to another person, in our tone of voice, in the words we use, in the silences which we allow, we communicate feedback – how far we trust, how much we respect, the degree to which we love, like or even hate the person in front of us. We cannot not give feedback. If we think we’re not doing it, we’re a dangerous communicator because it means we are probably not managing communication effectively.”
#2 Feedback is just another word for effective listening
“When one human being speaks to another, he or she needs to experience two very fundamental things – they need to know that they have been understood, and they need to feel that what they said had some form of value. Remove either of these aspects, and a speaker can quickly become confused or even irritated. Giving feedback effectively means in one sense simply providing both aspects; for example, showing understanding – ‘I see.’ or ‘OK. I have the same issue.’ – and expressing appreciation – ‘That’s important because …’ or ‘That’s very interesting because …’.”
In his article Bob had identified for me what is the most important thing of all – we are always giving and receiving feedback – either consciously or subconsciously. When we have to either give or receive feedback in a formal way the previous interactions we have had with the person can cause the core message we receive from them or want them to receive from us to become obscured by past emotional residue – usually negative. This is the packaging alluded to in the last blog – and what can we do about it?
The first thing we can do is to be aware of it. Once you start to develop your awareness, you have more information to choose from in terms of how you wish to communicate, and what you wish to communicate. This in itself leads to the internal question “what is the intention behind the feedback I received or the feedback that I myself want to communicate?”
When you have really explored the intention, you can then decide the value that can be gotten from the feedback – remember research tells us that two of the things we want most are understanding and appreciation.
I can give you an example; a few years ago I was working with a group who were exploring as part of a professional development course the importance of acknowledgment. I was checking in with a group on how they were getting on with the exercise and they advised me that they were struggling with the concept of simply acknowledging someone and asked me to join them to tease this out.
I spoke with them and facilitated as they grappled with the deceptively simple task of acknowledging each other. Being a Somatic learner myself (I will discuss Learning Styles in a later blog!!) I offered to join them and that we all have a go at the exercise to see what happened – which we did. What happened next was enlightening – two people sitting across from each other, not too far, not too close, but a comfortable distance. One person simply uses the phrases “I see you… I hear you…I understand you…” in the natural course of their conversation and the other person in the debrief afterwards advises that they had an overwhelming sense of being understood and appreciated – just by the use of those simple words in the conversation.
So what does this tell us about feedback? Look to the intention – in any interaction we recommend the following as a default thought process to use prior to giving any feedback – we call it the 3 What’s and a How, which stands for :
Development of your self-awareness and giving a little time to the preparation for a feedback conversation can greatly enhance the likelihood of achieving the desired outcome and go a long way in improving communication and openness to dialogue in the workplace – surely a win-win for all?
Author: Gina Ryan
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