I recently offered to review a friend’s resume with the offer of feedback, to help maximize the impact of her amazing skills and experience. My friend accepted my offer, but asked me to be mindful of her “sensitive underbelly”, admitting that she often had difficulty with some of my comments.
To say I was stunned is understating my reaction and perhaps the better word is flabbergasted! I had no idea that although well-intentioned, my honest feedback in the past could have been too critical, and interpreted as being harsh.
It brought to mind other conversations I’d had recently with other friends where I picked up on some muted vibes making me question how I provided comments, and advice.
I will admit that my style is sometimes direct, and perhaps blunt, but I always thought I was kind with my words, and more supportive and encouraging then others. This revelation made me realize that perhaps I’d had a huge blindspot all of these years, dishing out advice and guidance, perhaps too bluntly.
When I seek feedback from others, I prefer the direct route. Nothing is more painful for me then to watch someone skirt around a topic, visibly trying to convey a message without hurting my feelings, but because they are so careful trying to cushion their words, the dance more often leaves me frustrated, sometimes to the point of exasperation.
As my daughter will attest, I have more of a “suck-it-up princess” attitude when it comes to giving and receiving comments for improvement. Perhaps I learned early on that if you truly want to deliver your best, then getting advice and feedback from people who have experience and expertise is valuable and should not be overlooked. It doesn’t matter how they deliver it, as long as the comments will improve yourself or your product and help achieve your goal.
However, my friends reaction the other day, brought me to the réalisation that not everyone feels that way and many have probably been offended by my frankness.
It makes sense, when I consider that another friend of mine recently told me she had not commented on some ideas I had – where I had expressedly asked for feedback, because she did not want to hurt my feelings. This is totally foreign to me, that someone would assume that my feelings would be hurt by giving me the feedback that I requested. I dont take it personally. Okay, well perhaps I do a little, but I know that its better that I get honesty over just being told what I want to hear. I prefer being prepared when going into battle, rather than being inadequately armed.
I understand that this must not be the case for everyone, and that I need to be more mindful of others sensitivities, when providing comments. I think I have gotten away with it when I am facing the individual, because they see me smiling, and can pick up on my body language to give them the cues that its all coming from a place of love and support.
The problem with skype, chats or emails is that whole dimension of language does not come through. The tone and body language are missing and all you really have left is the word; naked, direct and blunt.
We never stop learning and growing through human connection. It is why I seek it so much. I am very grateful to my friend for showing her vulnerability and telling me to be more sensitive to the feedback I would be providing. Without it, I might continue to be upsetting my people while thinking that I was being kind to them.