I wrote the word feedback in scary letters because I fear giving negative feedback to anyone who is offering their talent. I want them to feel great about themselves. I want them to have a positive experience and walk away feeling good about themselves. On the other hand, I know that we must open ourselves to giving and receiving feedback so that we can grow. For example, I am learning how to teach yoga. I partnered up with a colleague and we each taught the other. Afterwards, we shared what went well and what did not. Without her feedback, I would have never realized that I missed a few cues! I want to be a good teacher, no scratch that, I want to be a great teacher so I am going to need people to help me get there! Another example: My daughter has a lovely voice but I would love to see her learn how to use that voice like a pianist learns to play the piano. Her voice will not progress and she will not be challenged to grow unless she opens herself to feedback. In my last job, I asked for feedback but did not receive feedback often, so maybe people are just as afraid as I am about giving feedback. I think we need to turn the tables and see giving feedback, both positive and negative, as loving the other person. Like this…. “I love you so much and I think you are so awesome that I want to help you grow in ______________________________ (you fill in the blank).”
I know that I asked for feedback in my last job, but I did not model a healthy way of giving feedback. Today, I want to offer a start to this process by looking at how I am learning to give feedback to my other yoga teachers. In our second day of class, our amazingly talented mentor guided us through an outdoor Ashtanga class. I love Ashtanga because the class is always the same and does not incorporate music so I am challenged to listen to my breath and the instruction given. At the end of the class, we gathered in a circle and our mentor asked us to go around the circle and give 1 or 2 positive comments and 1 or 2 growth points. What she did next was BRILLIANT!
She. Went. First.
She offered positive comments to herself and growth points. First, this disarmed me because she gave us a healthy way of giving our feedback. Second, she showed us that she is open to receiving growth points by giving them to herself. Third, as we went around the circle, she smiled and said, “Thank you,” after each person finished their turn. She did not lose her beautiful smile. She did not argue or offer counter points. Later, she talked to us about being open to feedback. The point is to honor the person giving the feedback, but being open to the feedback does not mean that every growth point is true. Once the feedback is given, then she can weed through them to ask herself what is true, what is silly, and what she needs to let go.
In my last job, I never went first. I never offered a way to give feedback. I never used that opportunity to show that I love receiving feedback because I am a person who wants to grow! I feel like I have a magical new tool in my toolbelt.
May we be people who go first.