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January 15, 2013

Managing Feedback: Assume There’s Truth in the Message

IStock_0feedbackllOver the years I have worked with hundreds of couples and individuals struggling to take in feedback from the people in their lives. Often one person will get caught up in trying to point out all the ways the other person is off. Seldom do I see people slow the message down to try and hear the truth in the feedback.

What we all seem to forget is that we all make mistakes. We all do stupid things, even when we may have the best of intentions. We each have our own personal fingerprint of the way we, specifically, tend to be relationally dysfunctional. And, yes, we are all relationally dysfunctional at times. We tend to have blinders on when it comes to our own personal foibles and “edges” (those places where we are the most relationally off). And we all seem to forget that those closest to us often know what that dysfunctional move is better than anyone else in our lives—even ourselves. No matter how much we think we’re hiding it, they know. They know because they see us do it, they feel us do it and they experience the impact of our anti-relational reactions the hardest. Those closest to us, know us the best—warts and all.

So...if we’re all imperfect, why is it that we fight like hell to not listen to negative feedback from the people in our lives? Why is it that a majority of people seem to think that our partners, bosses, friends, etc., are crazy, vindictive, blind, absurd and on and on in terms of the feedback they have for us? And, why is it that so many of us seem to think we have 20/20 vision in terms of our feedback for others, but others have 20/200 vision in terms of their feedback about us? It just doesn’t add up. It does not make sense that we would be so brilliant about the faults of those closest to us, yet they would be so ignorant about our own faults. 


In my experience over the years, most of us are actually dead-on when it comes to our insights about the edges of those closest to us…and visa versa. It behooves all of us to stop defending, blocking, denying or reactively attacking a loved one for their feedback and instead start taking it in. Although there are certainly a FEW exceptions, most loved ones are being honest in their feedback. They are not trying to be malicious or hurtful or even attacking. They are simply trying to tell us about the things we do that are difficult for them. Assuming there is truth in what they are saying will benefit all of us in the long run. Be courageous enough to hear the truth in their message. They have been courageous enough to share it. 

Challenge: To help with taking in feedback, assume that the person giving it is on the same team as you. Assume their feedback is a gift not an attack…even if it is said in an attacking way. Dare to assume that there is truth in the message regardless of how it was delivered.

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