GIve me some feedback, but not really
I remember the first time I was taught how to give feedback. I felt awful for all those people I have been giving feedback for the last 20 years. Being blunt is not a useful skill to have when helping others to improve. I have the tendency, to put it mildly, to think in detail ever word and move before I speak up, yet I always end up ‘projectile vomiting’ honesty, and consequently I spend the next day or so trying to make up for it and apologise for behaving like a complete ass.
I’m not 100% sure where this bluntness comes from, I reckon is a derivate of my self-righteousness tendencies and my addiction to perfectionism. Maybe some pride comes into play. Once all these elements get in the blender of my ‘professional’ opinions, well, there is no way back: I’m in the peak of my performance.
Apparently, it goes like this: before you state your opinion, ask the recipient for their own opinion on how they did, show respect for their vulnerabilities and listen carefully, there’s no need to dig deeper into an already very tender scab. Number and identify the strengths, make sure they are tangible and more than just two, praise for the effort, acknowledge the person and speak from a place of kindness and care. If you are unable to approach the whole thing from a detach place; i.e. this is not about you or what you would do, but from what is better for the person; please give yourself a chance to stay silence and to truly share your thoughts when you are ready to do so.
No answer is also feedback.
The art is in the timing, because more than anything, when you deliver your opinion is key. Certainly, the tone and words you chose play a pivotal part. But when you are in a place of clarity and kindness, you are more likely to get better results.
Only today I got reminded of my own humanity and how easy it is to fall into old patterns. Luckily, the emotional hangover didn’t last long. I was able to see what I was doing and stopped myself half way through a speech about filmmaking and storytelling. Thank God.
The crowd started dispersing like I have dropped a bombshell of farting opinions. I dissected this guy’s film into very smalls pieces. The group of four dropped to just me and the editor and his face was staring at me in horror. I stayed with my embarrassment, made eye contact and said: it’s hard to receive feedback, but it is even harder for me to give it. I asked him some further questions, yet not completely out of the realm of perfectionism, I made the decision to continue the conversation and not to coward away and leave him in the gloom of my hard words.
I didn’t walk away, I didn’t give him an empty apology, I kept on connecting with Eric and I got a little softer with each answer. He even said to me I was talking to him as if he was 4 years old. I put my hand up and admitted I was coming across as patronising and that I was truly sorry for hurting his feelings and being so over the top with the feedback. He said I didn’t hurt his feelings of course, as if he was guarded and protected from all pain. I smiled respectfully and apologise, again.
The second I took the hit, I immediately felt relieved. His face changed too. I was able to smile broader and the need to write this story came over to me. Being the one in the wrong, made it all right. Admitting my flaws to myself and him made me feel lighter. Knowing that, despite of my initial harshness, my intensions were good, and I was able to rewind only to move forward.
I didn’t sulk. I didn’t hide. I stayed on my naughty step.
Foreword about honesty
In the name of sincerity, I have hurt people’s feelings, lost friends and roll down with the punches on hundreds of arguments. Wanting to be right and justify my opinions and theories above other people’s feelings made with win more enemies than fights. The challenge for me is how to become softer, how can I call myself back in and sync back on other’s tune, meet them where they are, show support, be active and less reactive. The answer is to LISTEN. Listening to my heart, listening to others, listening to words I say before they come out of my mouth.
Kindness is appreciated more than opinions.