In my last post, we discussed how to determine whether feedback is warranted. This alone can make a huge difference in improving relationships!
So, let’s say you’ve determined that giving feedback in a situation makes sense. How do you deliver it in a kind, loving way?
Take ownership of what you’re saying
Understand that your opinion is an opinion. It is not a statement of fact. Too often we are convinced of the correctness of our opinions and may think of them as facts. “That’s a really great car.” “That’s an ugly color.” “It’s a wonderful day.” “She’s really arrogant.” “He’s a real jerk.”
Let’s say we look at a piece of art and don’t get it. An unconscious response might be, “Oh, that isn’t art, it is an eyesore. That took zero talent.” Do you see that this comes in the form of judgement and is stated as a fact?
When we are more conscious, we might say, “I don’t connect with that piece. I don’t understand modern art. Would you be willing to explain it to me?” In this case, we’re not criticizing the art, we’re talking about ourselves. We accept that our view of it is our perception and not a statement of fact. We are open to the possibility that our appreciation might be enhanced by expanding our understanding of modern art.
“You did great” or “You did a horrible job” are opinions. They aren’t very useful.
“You were so attentive and caring towards the animals, I can tell they really trust you” or “I have several concerns about the way the paint job came out. I noticed that there is paint splattered on the floor and there are several areas on the walls that appear to not have been painted at all.” You can see that when you are specific there is less room for debate or argument, and the feedback has the potential to be useful.
Let’s say you asked your daughter to clean her room. When you check it you see that it’s only partially clean. Instead of saying, “This room isn’t clean!” you could say “Great, you’re halfway there. When I asked you to clean your room, I meant,1) make your bed, 2) pick-up your dirty clothes and put them in the hamper 3) empty the wastebasket, and 4) vacuum the carpet. I see that you made your bed and picked up your clothes. When you empty the wastebasket and vacuum, you’ll be all done.” This feedback is specific and isn’t personal.
No apologies are necessary
Avoid apologizing when you give feedback. “I’m sorry, but I don’t like the way you are talking to me.” “I’m sorry but I prefer that you not touch my leg.” Apologizing is a way of communicating that you feel you don’t have the right to take up space.
The power of positive feedback
When we only focus on what we don’t like, or what we see as deficiencies, we are on the wrong track. Remember the Law of Attraction—what we focus on grows stronger.
Research shows that athletic teams that were given positive feedback that focused on their strengths and successes improved significantly more than teams that were given negative feedback that focused on their errors and weaknesses.
Similarly, when parents focus on their children’s misbehaviors, they are unwittingly inviting more misbehavior.
Also, keep it real and genuine. “I know it was hard for you to be patient when I was talking on the phone, I really appreciate that you didn’t interrupt me.” “I noticed that you put a lot of effort and heart into that project, it really shows.”
It’s important that we give positive feedback that is authentic and meaningful. Congratulating someone for something unremarkable or something poorly done isn’t helpful.
You can give feedback in conscious, loving ways that serve both you and the person who is receiving the feedback! This takes practice. Be gentle with yourself and practice using these strategies today.