[The feedback definition in this scenario is to provide information regarding a person's reaction to their words or actions to improve the relationship.]
Ralph and Robin are discussing replacing her car with a newer one. Ralph becomes agitated and explains his point of view with every comment Robin makes. She gets frustrated, and he continues to be right and combative while she tries to make her point during this 30-minute conversation.
Frustrated, Robin drops the "feedback bomb," "You don't ever listen. You are a know-it-all." We know his next comment, "No, I'm not." Both feel justified and have valid points of view.
Robin attempts to tell Ralph that he is challenging to talk to when discussing serious financial matters. Ralph feels attacked and becomes defensive. This locks up any opportunity to solve replacing her car and change to a different subject altogether. Now the conversation is about who is right. Ralph has missed an excellent opportunity for great feedback, and she feels restrained because she only wants him to understand her frustration.
Rather than defending himself, he passed up an opportunity to be the hero of this story, despite his disagreement with her. His words—" You are right, Robin. I sometimes feel bad when we can't get the car you want." or "Can we start over or take a break and reconvene a little later?"—would have made it about him not blaming Robin.
Robin's attempt to give feedback could have been better formulated and less critical. She could have said, "I get frustrated and don't know how to get my point across when our emotions escalate?" This makes the issue about her, not Ralph, and shows that she is considering her emotions rather than blaming them.
Feedback is an opportunity for growth and connection. If it is said with angst, it will be met with angst. If it is said in a strategic and meaningful way, it can be heard in a manner that provides connection. To step back and become gently curious about her feedback would give both a chance for understanding.
It's crucial to consider the outcome after offering feedback. Do I want to criticize and express my discontent, or do I want to present feedback that leads to connection and understanding?
When I need to be defensive and attack, can I pause, get out of my emotional self, and look for ways to de-escalate the conversation?
Healthy relationships require feedback, and it takes practice to master it. Whether giving or receiving feedback, it is critical to do it in a manner to foster growth, not negativity.
Are you good at giving and receiving feedback?
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