6 Ways to Provide Honest and Open Feedback to OthersBy Homaira Kabir
Communication is an act of courage, especially when it happens in the form of advice and feedback. Even with the best of intentions, we give ourselves over to an unpredictable outcome—to our words blossoming in the mind of another, or being rejected and met with anger or shame.
As a parent, a teacher, an employer, in whatever role we play, this courageous act is one we cannot sweep under the rug. Over and over, we're called to bring important issues to the attention of a child, a friend, an employee, or a parent. Each time, we sit with the painful uncertainty of, "Did they get what I meant?" Because at the end of the day, it’s not what comes out of our mouths that counts, but what enters their ears.
Luckily, there are ways we can arrive at mutual understanding more often. This begins with the realization that communication is "intersubjective," as novelist Ursula K. Le Guin has said. It’s an interchange between two minds, two awarenesses, two life stories. We cannot emit words and expect them to land on a passive object. Communication is not "I to it"—it is "I to I" where each word we speak enters the sacred space of the other.
How, then, do we make sure these words are powerful and persuasive? How are we to make sure they land lightly, yet create transformative change? My training as a coach and my research on self-worth has shown me that there are two things we need to keep front and center in our minds in order to turn communication into a magical act.
Show That You Care Deeply
This is easier when the person on the other side is your child, friend, or partner. But in professional settings, where feelings are often expected to be checked in at the door, we need to think of other ways to show we care. Here are a few:
Ask for permission
Before starting off with your advice, show care and respect by asking them if they're open to receiving it. A simple sentence like "I’ve noticed something and I would like to tell you because I feel it can help you" can open the doors of receptivity.
As easy as it sounds, this is the one where most of us really struggle, not only overtly, but also in our own minds. Even if we don't cut others off mid-sentence, we are often busy planning our comeback as they're talking. Listening with the curiosity of a "beginner's mind" shows that you care about the ideas and opinions of others.