We all give feedback, whether we realize it or not. We may do so through our actions and the slightest of gestures (raised eyebrows, shaking of head, or a beaming smile?). Of course we do it verbally, both solicited and not. It may be positive feedback, negative, or maybe sometimes indifferent. But the point is that we all do it and we all impact our relationships because of it.
I am a fan of providing constructive criticism because I am a fan of receiving it. It can lead me to conclusions that I may have not otherwise reached on my own. It can help me to see the bigger picture. It enables me to see beyond my personal viewpoint.
But I’ve found over the years that one person’s passion can be a torment to others. Just think about those people you know: the religious convert, the nutrition fanatic, the car lover. They are all gung-ho for whatever they’re into and that is amazing. However, to the person who doesn’t share that passion, they can seem overzealous- if not bombarding at times (with information, suggestions, etc.)
Which brings me back to my point: just because I like giving feedback does not mean the recipients like receiving it. No matter how much they may need it. No matter what my intent upon giving it is.
And here I must clarify- I never intentionally provide feedback in order to hurt, shame or judge someone else. I like to help people become the best person that they can, living the best life that they can. What can I say; it’s just my thing. For these reasons, I provide suggestions to others, specifically those closest to me. I hate to see them struggle, especially if it is with something I have gone through before. So what I do is try to mend the situation in hopes of making the subject happier.
I know that there are many of you out there like me- with the best of intentions- providing tidbits of advice to anyone in conflict. I praise your efforts, I really do. But what you’re not realizing is that this behavior may be harming rather than helping.
-When people receive feedback that they did not ask for, they tend to feel attacked.
-If they feel that this way, they are unlikely to heed your advice even if it would be in their best interest.
-In the case that someone does ask for help, they still may leave the discussion with a bad taste in their mouth because of how your response came across. Wording is very important.
Learning the most appropriate way to respond to someone’s problem takes practice. I have learned the hard way plenty of times that trying to help isn’t always welcome. This leaves both me and the other person frustrated- them because they don’t want the help and me because I am not able to control them. Reminding myself of these truths when tempted to affect someone has proved helpful in fine-tuning my communication style:
1. I have no right to express my opinion of someone’s life choices unless it is directly harming them or someone else. (If someone specifically asks for advice, then this is irrelevant.)
2. I cannot fix anyone, nor is it my responsibility to. Assuming that we are talking about healthy adults, they should be left to fight their own battles.
(On that note, I strive to refrain from using the term “should” regarding someone else. By doing so, I am essentially telling them what to do, which will not bode well. Instead of using “you should…,” try saying “if it were me, I would…”)
3. If someone is going to change, it will be of his or her own choosing– not based on anything I did to sway that person.
4. Sometimes the best thing to do for someone is to walk away from the situation. Trying to help someone who is just not open to the help is mentally taxing.
With all these things in mind, don’t discount how important constructive criticism can be. These mantras are just tools to truly manifest your good intentions. They will ensure that you are doing your job as a good friend or family member to help the person in need. What they do is completely out of your control, but what you do to guide them is not.
Now, rather than playing psychiatrist with my loved ones, I try to interact with them like people- not patients. My goal in any discussion is to first provide a sense of understanding and compassion. I validate their feelings to let them know that what they are going through is okay. And then I will sometimes ask them questions that may aid them in seeing the situation differently or discovering a solution.
I still sometimes make rash suggestions without being asked to, but most of my concern is now expressed in other ways. And I must say that my relationships are healthier because of it.
Also by Quincy: Inspired Living – Minimalism for Beginners
Photo: Alexandre Dulaunoy via Flickr