Monthly Archives: April 2015

Let’s Do This

My offering for the feedback carnival generously hosted by Helen Amery who started us off with “Feedback would happen all the time if…”. It’s easy to blunt off the prompt for a blog by simply ending the sentence. However, this negates from giving feedback the value and attention it deserves. And isn’t that reason we’re carnivalling? 
Feedback would happen all the time…if we just realised that it does.
Feedback happens constantly.
If we take the time to notice it, and harness the resources all around that can provide it. 
Mainly, people. 
This carnival blog is a call to get comfy with feedback, on the receiving end.
Recently I’ve intentionally spent a lot of time making friends with feedback, triggered by an Emotional Intelligence 360. Giving it, but mainly focusing on how we receive it, and practising getting comfortable with the discomfort of hearing what others have to say. What they like, what they don’t like. How they feel I can be better for them. Things they’d like me to do more of, less of. 
Why?
I’m dreaming of time when its common practice that feedback talk happens as standard, within the 1:1s I’m part of. It’s expected, it’s what we do here. We value it. [substitute dreaming with determined to create]
When you ask the people you manage to conduct a EI360 assessment about you then provide face to face feedback, the reality is that the process of sitting there and having that conversation requires employment of the exact competencies you’re receiving feedback about. The conditions required for that to truly and openly occur require significant self-awareness to even establish a sense of mutuality where honesty can prevail. To avoid the risk of co-dependent responses where people say what they think you want to hear. Ego feeding for apparently everyone’s benefit.

When was the last time you asked for direct feedback that took you to discomfort? 
How did you make it ‘ok’ for that person to tell you what they dislike?
“You could do with being a bit more organised. For example, your phone battery is always dead and you sometimes send things last-minute”
“Nothing seems to phase you. I’d like to see the cracks”
“You struggle to impose your impact on the meeting and project your ideas”
“Where have you been today? Your hair looks patchy. Have you dyed it? If I can’t tell you who can?”
“You’re inconsistent. Sometimes I feel like an equal, sometimes I feel like an underling”
“I want more details of your expectations when you give me a task”
“What did you mean? It’s poor grammar and doesn’t make sense”
“You ask questions like you’re manipulating me for an answer”
“Where is your self-empathy? I’m hearing nothing about your own worth”

How does that sit with you?
If you laughed, what was that about? If you cringed, what does that tell you?
I remember theses comments clearly, along with accompanying facial expressions (where face to face), and my resonant emotions. Some I had to stop myself laughing out loud. Others I had to stop myself giving a mean retaliative response. Maybe I didn’t stop myself. Then for some I paused, felt that for an extremely long moment, then did something. I even felt the need to reason with one point, and another I blatantly said I’m ignoring. I also cried. 
Uncomfortable yet?
The best experiences of the above pieces of feedback where the conversations afterwards, in which we continued to explore. Noticing the discomfort, asking “how was that for you?”. Sharing the experience of the previous interaction. How it felt. What we thought. Reactions we controlled. Valuing it and each other for going there. And so it continued. [Thank you, I am grateful for you]
Asking for feedback comes with the responsibility of being able to hold the feedback you receive, and accepting it for what it is. Insight. Something you hadn’t realised. A new perspective. New information. It’s not only the provider of feedback who needs to consider their language, intention, impact, integrity and so on in providing feedback, but also the receiver of feedback who is responsible making it ‘ok’. When self-conceptualising our brain automatically tips our focus of appraisal toward the negative. I understand this to be at a ratio of 2.9:1 negative to positive. For everyone 1 positive, we easily provide 3 negative pieces of information about ourself or our performance in a given situation. Who’s responsibility is to address this balance? Do you need a shit sandwich to help with that? Or a 5:1 positive to negative ratio to prevent the discomfort with this feedback becoming manifested self-deprecation? I wondering about Bill Torbert’s ideas of action inquiry, to develop Action Logic: the way in which we interpret our surroundings and react when our power or safety is challenged. To view all our activity as inquiry, and all responses as feedback. Feedback would happen all the time if we weren’t so scared of not being there yet.
This discomfort doesn’t stop with intended complimentary feedback. There are plenty of comments like those above that offer more affirmative observations which it would be ignorant of me not to acknowledge. However, I’ll share none of them here, because we both know it’s even less socially acceptable to be comfortable with hearing how great someone thinks you are. What a shame that is.
So far I’ve learnt that the feedback worth doing comes with resident discomfort of hearing something of genuine affirmation or potential threat, and the challenge is to keep looking. If someone is brave enough to share it, be brave enough to hold it. Let’s get uncomfy.

Connectedness 

The world of Twitter and beyond into the SoMe wilderness never seems to fail in delivering wondrous people to discover and know. Connecting this way certainly doesn’t feel like it’s “not real” when I’m chatting to people (apart from those conversational tweeting accounts with a logo and no face or name). There will always be a debate of whether platforms enhance connectedness, by crossing geographical boundaries with real-time video calls, or reduce the quality of our face to face social when you’re out to dinner for two and using your phones to tweet. It’s probably both. Overall, It’s actually quite brilliant and I’ve experienced tweeting out a question that triggers altruistic responses, generosity and often resultant comedy. It’s not the technology, but what it enables. I’ve been a SoMe user for 21 years and I’m not ‘tech savvy’. Instead, it’s grown my social. 

Human connection is a powerful and essential thing. We knew this before articles like this one about the potential consequences of loneliness upon health. Mortality even. Yet it’s not about the quantity of people that supports health. We can be in a crowd, with a group of friends, in a busy social environment, and still feel lonely: a sense of disconnect. It’s the quality that matters. The sense of connect, through it’s breadth and depth. To truly be seen matters. That acute attention, positive regard, acceptance, matters. 

So I wonder then why people connect and why people meet. Incongruency  and opacity puzzles me, in that visible head-scratching furrowed-brow way. Do we all have an agenda? Is there always a reason? A purpose? Is there an unwritten rule somewhere that says we need one (I missed it).

How long is the acceptable time to chat before getting to that bit? After we’ve spent a good 10mins chatting and listening and laughing? ‘Oh, I see…my mistake. I thought we were just getting to know ea….’. The casual coffee meet ends with a list of actions and instantly the dynamics change to those of placing demands. You want something from me, and I should be wanting something from you. It quickly reminds me of colleagues who call and switch on the three key questions picking up on the last time we spoke and making sure they ask about my holiday, my dog, my kids (blah blah). The same answers are repeated so I’m sharing enough but not too much. Just ask. My likelihood of giving isn’t dependant on you remembering my partner’s name. More likely, on whether you ever asked “how are you?” with space for more than “fine thanks you?” and without fearing a real answer because you don’t know what to do with it (even thought it’s not yours). Relationships span every interaction. 

We know so much about people and connecting. We have so many opportunities to connect, and get to know each other. To see, notice and appreciate. Both the passion and purpose emanant in your eyes are bigger than small talk. 

Silence

What are your thoughts on silence?

What are your thoughts in silence?
The silence of being in a vast pine forest, when there’s no-one around and you’re alone. So empty yet so full.

The silence outside the door of the doctors room. At the end. Before it begins.
The silences after the laughter stops.
The silence of your own breath. Fast. Slow. Free.
The silence in a room full of people when you’re standing at the front. That climbs up your chest with every second. Choking your throat with demands. 
The silences that accepts you. Without interruptions. That creates space for thought. For a limitless anything. That stretches out until it squeaks.
The silence that isn’t awkward but mutual. Filled with emotion. That you hold and reluctantly cherish.
Thank you for the silence.