Giving and Getting Feedback
I tried an experiment with my teenagers at the dinner table the other night. I was reading the book Insight, by Tasha Eurich, where she talked about something she called “The Dinner of Truth.” In the book (pg 188) she explained the concept in this way:
“Contact a close friend, family member, or mentor – someone who knows you well and with whom you want to strengthen your relationship. Invite this person to share a meal with you. During the meal, ask them to tell you the one thing that annoys them the most about you. But first, tell the person why you’re doing this, that nothing is off-limits, and that you aren’t allowed to answer defensively – only to listen with an open heart and mind.”
It seemed like a really great idea. I went to the table with the book and described (badly, I guess) what I was looking for. I got a lot of hemming and hawing and “I don’t know.” I was asking them for honest assessments of any areas I might work on personally as I move into a bit of a supervisory role at work. I asked them what things they saw as weaknesses or problems in the way I deal with others. Their reaction was disappointing. They actually had very little feedback to offer. I wasn’t sure if I should be pleased that they could find nothing to critique, worried that they couldn’t or didn’t feel comfortable being honest with me, or troubled by the notion that maybe they thought too little about others (or me) at all. After some thought I decided that it may just be too foreign for them to critique another person.
In this little experiment I learned that perhaps honest, constructive feedback is hard for others to give. I know that I am constantly thinking about the motivations and behaviors of others. I have made it a game almost to try and watch other people and try to imagine what their point of perspective is, what they may see that causes them to behave or react in the way that they do. I try hard to think of it as objectively as I can without judging or labeling the behavior yet I honestly can count on one hand the number of times anyone has actually asked me to critique something that they have done. Eurich’s book pointed out clearly why people should be asking for this kind of exchange. Why are people so afraid to hear criticism? What is it about change that makes people so fearful?
I finished Insight in just a few days and enjoyed it very much. For anyone looking to improve him or herself it could be a very useful tool. The book offers solid, logical reasoning as to how improving one’s insight can positively impact one’s life and provides detailed steps to doing so.
So how about you? Can you stomach critical feedback? Are you willing to find a loving critic to help you become a better person? What makes you afraid to change?