Nurturing Through Feedback

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Whether we look to the new year with eager anticipation or teeth-clenching apprehension was–and still is–up to us all individually. Our nerves might be frayed as we try to strategize for what may or may not come with the advent of a new year in the exacting 2020s.

To best prepare ourselves and those around us, we must turn to the pivotal–but sometimes overlooked–tactic of feedback. If our children have been misbehaving, for example, we of course inform them of the consequences of their actions and, for them to learn, we might propose alternative actions to achieve better results. This same seemingly simple structure of parental mentorship can easily be translated to relationships with other loved ones and colleagues alike.

Shana Lebowitz, writing for Business Insider, asserts that negative feedback shouldn’t be abandoned for the sake of positive feedback. Though seemingly sharp, negative feedback also conveys investment. We have to give feedback–positive and negative–regularly to further delineate our interest in relationships, and to hopefully yield positive results. We can’t just wait for our kids to misbehave or for our colleagues to perform incorrectly to express our expectations–we must be transpicuous.

Leadership Coach Heidi Lynne Kurter observes in this piece for Forbes, “When everyone knows where they stand and what’s expected of them, they’re more likely to remain engaged and productive.” If we want the best out of our loved ones and our colleagues, we have to be attentive listeners and dedicated communicators. People can’t know our expectations unless we regularly communicate them.

But to give great feedback, we have to understand how to take feedback. It can be tough to swallow criticism from colleagues, let alone loved ones (“Et tu, Brutus?”). Jacquelyn Smith advises us to assume a nurturing intention. If our boss or partner expresses criticism in our performance, we need to push down any instinctual defense mechanism and do our best to listen. Feedback isn’t meant to stab us.

Psychologist LeeAnn Renniger suggests a four-part formula for delivering feedback in this TED Talk. The best feedback begins with a brief preamble preparing the recipient for the upcoming comments, followed by specificity instead of ambiguity.

Today, tell someone at work or at home how their actions affected us, either positively or negatively. But, adding a twist to that, be sure to ask how our actions affected them. Feedback, after all, is a circle–no sharp edges.

“Average players want to be left alone. Good players want to be coached. Great players want to be told the truth.”
— Doc Rivers

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