How to Give Feedback

Lisa and Ginny have been friends for five years. Ginny has been outspoken about her political viewpoints which Lisa does not share. When they go out for dinner or coffee, Ginny can’t seem to resist inserting politics into the conversation. At this point Lisa shuts down and impatiently waits for Ginny to stop her monologue.

Over time, Lisa has stopped texting Ginny. She postpones get-togethers to avoid hearing Ginny’s views on the state of the world. Lisa is hurting, and Ginny is confused at the turnaround in the relationship. Following the presidential elections, Ginny continued talking non-stop about her winning candidate. Lisa eventually snapped at Ginny, shouted for her to please stop, then walked away from dinner. A day later, Lisa reached out to Ginny with an invitation to meet and discuss what happened. 

Successful relationships require three vital communication practices:

How to love or/Expressing love

How to forgive or/Expressing forgiveness

How to share authentic feedback or /Sharing authentic feedback

Loving another requires joining our hearts along with implementing practical considerations. Sure, we love to tell someone we love them. Most of us appreciate actions proving our love is real – such as doing dishes, checking in during the day or giving a warm hug. It’s these practical expressions that fuel healthy relationships. When we withhold loving gestures, both parties perceive something is amiss and unhealthy thoughts surface.

Forgiving means love has conquered the ego. To truly forgive, three important steps are called for. First, forgiveness must be intentional and voluntary – meaning we willingly want to change our feelings and attitude regarding an offense. Second, we move past negative feelings such as anger and pay-back.  We choose acceptance and peace over negativity. Third, we resurrect loving feelings to wish the offender a return to peace and wholeness.

Learning to provide others with honest feedback builds on love and forgiveness.

Follow these vital steps for long-lasting healing:

Declare mutual intention up front. Together agree to a common goal. Choose wisely how you safely explore the impetus for harmful interactions. Openly express what you’d like to see happen next. 

Value the relationship not the problem. Start with an authentic expression of love. “I trust you. I am so grateful you are in my life.” Use your eyes, body and facial gestures to sync-up with your words. Shake hands or hug afterwards. If possible, find something to laugh about to break up tension and discomfort.

Create structure. Set a date for your time together, preferably within three days after an “event.” Determine the agenda in advance. You can meet again if more topics remain unresolved. Allow no more than one hour for the conversation. Set boundaries around where you meet, and remind the person of the need for privacy to mutually feel safe. Agree to mutual accountability, knowing you are both on new paths to growth and strength.

Be open, sensitive and genuine. Through the lens of tenderness we can address strong emotions, defensiveness and stubborn thinking. Let’s say you’re angry. What do you do? You blow up. It’s okay that you feel those things – but it’s not okay to blow up, resort to hurling nasty comments or give the silent treatment. Don’t allow anger and negativity to be your primary reactions. Acknowledge they exist without allowing them to hijack the relationship. Compassion gets us closer to healing and further away from hurting.

It’s a team effort. With joined intent and loving attitude, it’s impossible to remain one-sided, selfish, controlling and resistant to progress. Intend to find a place of peace and understanding. When giving feedback, be useful and forward-thinking. Listen more. React less. Find space between what you feel and the next thing that spills from your mouth. 

Take responsibility and commit to change. Do you need forgiveness or want to offer forgiveness to another? Forgiveness is the world’s most powerful healer. Forgiveness is the alchemy which transforms dark into light. Light becomes the catalyst to fuel and maintain positive feelings. To ask someone for their forgiveness is one of the most powerful acts any human being can make. To offer heartfelt, unsolicited forgiveness opens dialogue and heals broken hearts.

A few days after Lisa’s outburst, Lisa and Ginny met to talk. They agreed their intention was to share feelings and find healing. They agreed their friendship was more valuable than discussions around politics. Because they cherished the many gifts in their relationship, Lisa and Ginny owned up to how they each contributed to their roadblock.  They offered ideas to improve dialogue. Walking through these steps allowed them to hug it out and exchange kind and heartfelt words.

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