Tag Archives: Quitting & Letting Go

Do you give confronting feedback?

Do you give confronting feedback?

Recently my girlfriend gave me feedback on my writing, and it didn’t go well. Just about everything that we knew about what to do, or not do when giving feedback went wrong, and I felt personally attacked.  Funny thing is that we are both trained and experienced in giving and receiving feedback.

But it went wrong anyway.

Only days before, she recounted how she took critical feedback personally, so it’s clear we forget to practice what we know.

what’s going on when feedback goes awry

Many things can go wrong when giving feedback e.g the giver is too rough and ignores what’s working, or too nice and ignores what’s not, but the biggest thing that can go wrong with feedback is having it land on the person and not on her work.

Receiver takes it personally

Photo by Giorgio Parravicini

That’s what happened with me and my girlfriend. I felt that I, not my work, was the focus of her feedback which expressed her deep disappointment in me. I took it personally, (even though I’ve written about why not to). Instead of feeling encouraged to fly, I felt I could never soar like an eagle because I was flapping little penguin wings.

The emotional minefield

Perhaps where we both went wrong was forgetting that every human relationship is laden with emotional (land)mines, and regardless of how strong a relationship, a careless or casual remark, can trip one off. The remark brings up something from a person’s past—a relationship with a demanding parent or being unfairly criticized and laughed at when they were seven.

I think it’s good to approach any form of evaluation, performance appraisal, or acknowledgment with care for not setting off an emotional landmine.

Learning to confront

I believe it was in “Difficult Conversations” by Douglas Stone and Bruce Patton where I read something about giving feedback (criticizing) that stuck with me. As I recall it had to do with the strong connotations of criticism with confrontation.

Consider how we think of the word confront:

  1. oppose, as in hostility or a competition. “You must confront your opponent”; “Jackson faced Smith in the boxing ring”; “The two enemies
    flickr.com/photos/johannwalterbantz

    finally confronted each other”

  2. deal with (something unpleasant) head on; “You must confront your problems”;

The word confront connotes hostility, argument, opposition. We approach most feedback as a confrontation and we think we’ll either come out winning or losing.

Stone and Patton offered a different way of thinking about confrontation based on the original meaning of the word confront: to stand with (the person receiving the feedback), in front of (their work: the thing being evaluated). I’ve interpreted this as—

Feedback should be triangular, not linear

Photo by marklordphotography

Think of someone you need to give some important feedback to. Picture you and that person as two points of a triangle facing the third, the article, report, sculpture, video of a performance etc. Both of you are physically oriented towards the work and discussing how (helping each other) to improve it. This “triangulation” differs from how we usually give feedback.

Linear feedback

In the normal feedback formation, the giver and receiver face each other with the work in the middle. Often though, the person receiving the feedback places herself in the middle to defend her work from the criticism. She tries to protect her work because, for her, her work IS HER.

Feedback-triangulation as I call it doesn’t inoculate the receiver from hurt and defensiveness, but it does reduce the chances of this happening. Why? Because the triangular formation helps focus both sides on something external to them both.

Feedback is standing together to face a shared interest.

Can a simple physical orientation make such a difference? It can, but it’s actually more a mental orientation. The physical orientation is more like training wheels when learning to ride. With time and practice, and an ability to share when feedback is landing personally, both giver and receiver won’t need the physical orientation because they get something key to effective feedback:

We’re on the same side

Once the person receiving feedback gets that the person giving the feedback is on their side, almost anything can be said without anyone taking it personally.

But sometimes we forget we’re on the same side, as I did when I listened to my girlfriend’s very valid comments. We got it straight though. We talked things out and discovered how things landed for the other. We forgave, hugged, kissed and moved on.

Might not work with your direct reports though.

So first establish you’re on their side before giving feedback to anyone you care about, and triangulate your feedback. Your comments are about what could make the work become stronger, faster, more effective or more creative.

It’s not about the person.

Trust they will incorporate the feedback into their next attempt, and their tiny penguin flippers will grow into eagle wings, or they’ll figure out those little fellas are for rocketing through water, not air.

Photo by Teaksu Kim
Ten signs of a bad boss

Ten signs of a bad boss

Many bad bosses are nice people, but they all create unnecessary cost in high staff turnover and inefficiency.  Motivation enough to get rid of them. But from a purely human perspective, bad bosses give work a bad name.  They fuel negative work conversations and provide ‘evidence’ that work cannot be enjoyable and productive. Bad bossesContinue Reading

Fake it till you make it

Fake it till you make it

Everyone faces times when they feel like a fraud; some people live their entire lives with that feeling. Many artists confess to this, especially writers.  David Duchovny’s character in Californication proclaims that he’s a writer that doesn’t write. Boy I can relate to that. Interestingly enough, sometimes this feeling persists despite all of the evidenceContinue Reading

When did “I wanna hold your hand” become “I wanna bend u ovah”?

When did “I wanna hold your hand” become “I wanna bend u ovah”?

If you ever needed proof that time are achangin’ look no further than the lyrics kids listen to. “I wanna busta cap in dat Mother#u!ka*’s head” and “I wanna get f*!k*d” are par for the course in much of today’s youth music culture, and it makes the sixties Beatle song “I wanna hold your hand”Continue Reading

Having trouble improving a relationship? Try this:

A few days ago I listened to Doug Stevenson—teacher of the Story Theater Method—share how he improved his relationship with his young step-son. Doug related how hard he was trying to communicate with his teenage stepson and that nothing seemed to work. His communications were being ignored, or mis-understood and he was getting nowhere fast.Continue Reading

Steve Jobs on living, loving and learning

Steve Jobs on living, loving and learning

My sister told me about Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement address where Jobs told three stories about his life that bring powerful perspecitve to education, work and life.  The speech is embedded below and here’s my take on those three stories. 1. Education – don’t be a sheep about it I think most people knowContinue Reading

Why I don’t recommend DVORAK

On April 5th, 2011 I ended a 17month affair with the DVORAK system of typing. It really was more than an affair as I officially stopped using QWERTY (after some three decades of cold hard typing) and began my first tentative and clumsy keystrokes on a DVORAK keyboard. I quit QWERTY because DVORAK seemed muchContinue Reading

How to NOT be a cry-baby

My last post dealt with the very real consequences to you of the bad habit – and it is a bad habit – of taking things personally. If you tend to take things personally, others around you will notice and will take care to either avoid sensitive topics or avoid you all together.  Either wayContinue Reading

The thing about taking things personally

The thing about taking things personally

Have you heard the old joke about the guy who walks into the doctors office and says, “Doc, it hurts everytime I do this,” as he demonstrates bending his arm at the elbow; to which the doctor replies “Well stop doing that.” Taking things personally is just like that. It hurts when we do itContinue Reading

In defense of Gossiping

In my last post I wrote about the Consequences of Gossiping and like most things in life there are many shades of grey.  Below there is an amusing story about gossiping that suggests that while you are well advised to remove yourself from gossip it is not wise to be completely oblivious to it. Here’sContinue Reading

Five consequences of gossiping you shouldn’t ignore

Five consequences of gossiping you shouldn’t ignore

The essence of practice is the consciousness or intention you bring to the practice – something that you willingly choose to participate in every day.  Long held practices take on a life of their own and if there is no clear purpose to the practice we call them habits. For some gossiping is a habit,Continue Reading

Hidden Rivalry

I was sitting with an old friend the other day, and she described something her friend observed in his conversation with her the day before.  He said, “You ever notice that you’re always trying to get one up on me in our conversations?”   “What do you mean” she replied.   “I say something aboutContinue Reading

Acknowledging what’s there

Feel like typing this morning.  Talking with my fingers.  Usually I prefer to handwrite with my fountain pen in the mornings.  Very therapeutic I find … a good way to corral “free radical” thoughts that could do damage if not captured and put away somewhere.  This morning my computer seems the best place to doContinue Reading

Rain, Rain, Rain

Whoever said, “Into every life a little rain must fall,” knew what she was talking about; but this is ridiculous.  It’s rained almost every day since I’ve been here in Trinidad and yesterday it rained all day – much of it torrential.  On the narrow congested road to where my parents live, there were partsContinue Reading

Breakthrough in being with another’s POV

The other day I was having a drink with a good friend of mine and he began to relate his impression of one of the political candidates in the upcoming election.  To say that his view was completely at odds with my own is to put it mildly.  What was really interesting though was thatContinue Reading

“Something’s Wrong”

The other day a friend of mine called me to share that he had a huge breakthrough while sitting on the can.  He thought that last bit of detail essential to his story.  (smile) The breakthrough that he had during his biological “functioning” was that he was automatically and unconsciously coming from “Something’s wrong.” FromContinue Reading

Landslides

Landslides

“This is a gel Sir. And you’re not allowed to take more than 3.4 ozs of gel on board,” said the security officer as I avoided his gaze. I could feel the irritation rising up within me. After all, I had gone through several airport security checkpoints with said gel and had never been questioned.Continue Reading

Embrace Your Big Fat Ass

Embrace Your Big Fat Ass

You heard me! It’s big, it’s round, it’s talked about, it’s yours. So learn to love it. That’s essentially what “Embracing Your Big Fat Ass: An Owner’s Manual,” is all about. While big fat asses may not be high on your issues list, this funny book is worth a read. The authors (Laura Banks andContinue Reading

Who is this person I’m in a relationship with?

I’m a big fan of the movie Crash because it did an excellent job of illustrating this point:the greatest good and the greatest evil lies within us all. What got me writing about it now is a couple that I know that is going through a rocky period. I’m not going to describe details …Continue Reading

Getting even

Getting even

I am a big proponent of “letting go,” as an essential practice in living my life as a practice. That’s a very challenging thing to do when you grow up in a world that teaches you that there are people who are bad and wrong, and where there is no distinction between the behavior andContinue Reading

Learning to let go

I use the word “learning” instead of “learn” because letting go is an art that you will spend your life practicing. Yet this is nothing to be discouraged about. The whole idea of living your life as a practice is that there is no final state of perfection. You always can improve. Letting go isContinue Reading

Angry people

So I was at the club of a good friend of mine last night. If you live in New York and like live music its called Rose. Anyway my friend Carlo asked me to help him diffuse a situation with a young man who was apparently causing some concern from Carlo for his place andContinue Reading