I’ve been thinking lately about how important it is to have a balanced diet …and not just for food.
When I’m eating I am conscious of the mix of carbs, proteins and fats I need to keep my body and mind working. I aim to eat a pretty balanced diet, to avoid too many saturated fats and refined sugars and to eat good quality food. I love tasty food and really enjoy eating out with friends and family, and I’m also aware that the food I choose to eat has an impact on my ability to be fit and strong enough to do the things I want to do. I’m not a born-again food saint, I eat chocolate and cake if I really want to, but I’ve realised they’re not the best fuel for me to use on a regular basis.
I work with a variety of clients, for all sorts of reasons. Recently I have worked with a number of clients to help them overcome an unhelpful relationship with food, and I’m realising that some people also have an unhelpful relationship with feedback.
Often my coaching clients might tell me that they need feedback, or love to get feedback, and I am interested to understand what feedback means to them. After all, one person’s “constructive feedback” may be another person’s “unprecedented character attack”…and sometimes the person who tells you they don’t get any feedback may be the same person whose boss says “they don’t take feedback well”. Other people tell me they’re too frightened to give feedback to someone, because they don’t want to have a “difficult discussion”.
So what similarities do I see in the way people relate to food and feedback? I see people who face the following issues
- using feedback for comfort
- using it as a distraction from their concerns
- no idea of portion control, sometimes there’s not enough and sometimes there’s enough to feed an army
- expecting a large proportion of it to be sugary and sweet…and we all know a diet of sweet, sugary stuff doesn’t help us to get anywhere in good shape
- using it to punish themselves, a bit like the view my grandmother used to have of medicine: If it tastes nice it can’t be doing you any good.
However, other people genuinely believe feedback is a useful tool to keep them on track, and help them to get where they want to go. To me, that feels like a more helpful relationship to have with feedback. So how can you learn to have a healthier relationship with feedback?
How about considering feedback as FUEL? In the same way that you might plan a journey, think about the destination you’re aiming for (the purpose or GOAL) think about how much food (feedback) is needed to get you there…put too much in and you can’t eat it all, too little and you can’t make the destination. If you run the fuel down too low for too long, energy levels sink and yet, when you do get more food, you may find you have a much reduced appetite. If it’s a long journey and one meal won’t get you there, factor in the need to make regular top-ups.
Whether you’re the person giving feedback, or the recipient keeping this analogy in mind may help you get the best value out of the feedback.
If, on reflection, you realise the “feedback” you were about to give is really just enabling you to vent your spleen about something that hasn’t worked, or to give someone a mouthful because you’re in a bad mood then DON’T GIVE IT! It’s not fuel, it’s not getting anyone anywhere, and it’s far more about you than about the behaviour of the person at whom you are venting. To go back to food for a moment – this behaviour is like “comfort eating”; it might feel good at the moment you’re doing it but 9 times out of 10, you feel much worse afterwards. The difference here is that if you’re doing it with “feedback” instead of food, it’s probably not just you who feels bad afterwards.
Take a deep breath or go for a walk, or both, and think about the best way to get to the place you’re aiming for.
The best feedback focusses on the Behaviour, not the Person. The person is far more than their behaviour and it is the behaviour that you want to affect, whether to let someone know that they did something that got great results, or to let them know that, to get better results, something needs to change.
If you feel you have been giving the same feedback over and over again, then perhaps you need to change the way you give the message. Think of other ways of getting the message across, use examples, use language that the other person relates to, ask questions to check for understanding…and perhaps discover that the person you’re talking to has some bright ideas of their own for how to make changes.
If you’ve been finding feedback a bit of a mouthful, and would like help in making it a more appetising prospect, get in touch, either at www.abluetree.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org