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Podcast Season 1, Episode 8

Giving Useful Feedback with Love

In this episode, Steve shares four tips on how to give useful feedback in a way that is loving. He also defines what feedback actually is, and clarifies that what is requested is very rarely actually feedback - it's something completely different.


Giving Useful Feedback with Love

Hello, and welcome to the new episode of love is always the answer podcast. My name is Steve Mattus, with ∞actualinfinity, I am your host as usual.

Today we’re going to be talking about feedback. Oh, that lovely, lovely topic of feedback. I wrote an article recently about how to receive feedback in a way that doesn’t crush your heart. And today, I want to talk about what happens when you’re on the other side of that coin, meaning you’re the one that’s giving feedback.

It’s important to learn how to cope when we receive it. But how do we make sure when we’re the ones that are asked for feedback, that we’re able to give it in a way that is useful, effective, and also loving? That’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Let’s get to it.

We all know what it’s like to receive feedback from others whether it’s requested or not. Sometimes it lands, okay. Sometimes it doesn’t land okay – there’s reasons for that.

And I wrote an article recently about receiving feedback, especially when you’re a sensitive person like I am. That’s out on the ∞actualinfinity blog, I’ll put a link to that down in the show notes. But today, I want to talk about what happens when the role is reversed… when you’re the one that’s asked to give feedback. How do you do that in a way that’s effective?

What is feedback?

So let’s first talk about what feedback actually is. Because this is one of the issues or challenges or problems, if you will about feedback, we often misinterpret what feedback is feedback, if you think about it from like an audio perspective, feedback is a reflection of the original noise that gets amplified as it goes through the system. And it’s really painful and annoying, right?

Feedback in an audio system, like with a microphone and a speaker that are too close is not a fun experience for anybody. Right? And I think that’s also often reflected in actual feedback. But the important point about that, and the reason I use that example, is because feedback is actually simply a reflection of what is there – no interpretation, there’s no opinion, there’s no experience, there’s no story about it. It’s simply, I did this and this happened. That’s feedback.

When so if you’re asking somebody for feedback on an article, that’s actually not what you’re asking, you’re actually asking for opinions, or thoughts, or feelings. Now, we very rarely actually ask for feedback. And so this is one of the distinctions that I want to make. If we’re asking for feedback, then we have to ask for actual feedback, which is simply what happened. Right? And it’s not a subjective thing. It’s an objective thing. So that’s one of the things I wanted to mention in the context of feedback and giving feedback.

Feedback according to Harvard Business Review

There was a really interesting article from Harvard Business Review in 2019. It’s quite a long article, so I’m not going to go through much of it. But I wanted to read a couple paragraphs of the conclusion because it hits on a topic that I think is so so important. And this article was written in the context of giving peer feedback in like a corporate team setting. Alright, so just understand that’s kind of the topic here, but it applies everywhere.

The last three paragraphs of this article say this:

How to give people feedback is one of the hottest topics in business today. The arguments for radical candor and unvarnished and pervasive transparency have a swagger to them, almost as if to imply that only the finest and bravest of us can face these truths with nerveless self-assurance, that those of us who recoil at the thought of working in a climate of continual judgment are condemned to mediocrity, and that as leaders our ability to look our colleagues squarely in the eye and lay out their faults without blinking is a measure of our integrity.

But at best, this fetish with feedback is good only for correcting mistakes—in the rare cases where the right steps are known and can be evaluated objectively. And at worst, it’s toxic, because what we want from our people—and from ourselves—is not, for the most part, tidy adherence to a procedure agreed upon in advance or, for that matter, the ability to expose one another’s flaws. It’s that people contribute their own unique and growing talents to a common good, when that good is ever-evolving, when we are, for all the right reasons, making it up as we go along. Feedback has nothing to offer to that.

We humans do not do well when someone whose intentions are unclear tells us where we stand, how good we “really” are, and what we must do to fix ourselves. We excel only when people who know us and care about us tell us what they experience and what they feel, and in particular when they see something within us that really works.

Brilliant, brilliant. points in that article, I highly recommend you give it a look, I will also link to that full article in the show notes.

But a couple of the key pieces from that: I love that it points out like this almost this fetish, this kink around feedback, and how feedback has been held of like, we should be willing to hear any and all feedback, which I just want to give you permission right now to call complete and total bullshit on that you are not a better person. Because you get feedback for everything and don’t blink. That is not a moral or ethical when you are not obligated to give or receive any feedback. Doing so doesn’t make you a better person.

Can it be useful? Absolutely. But in the way we receive and give feedback, if we do it with skill, and in the appropriate context. It can not only make giving feedback, or receiving feedback palatable, it can making giving feedback or real joy when we do it with skill. Because we do it with skill, then we’re pretty assured that it’s going to land well and be useful. And that’s why somebody would ask us for feedback anyway. Right. So all that having been said, let’s get into some details.

Firstly, and again, this dovetails with the article I wrote about receiving feedback. You want to make sure that if you’ve been asked for feedback, that the request has been clear, are they asking for feedback, which again, is simply sharing what happened?

In objective fact, I clicked this button on your website, and it took me to this page. That’s feedback. I don’t like the color of the button. That’s not feedback. That’s opinion. So we have to be make sure that whatever we’re asked has been asked clearly. And if it hasn’t, we want to go back to the one requesting the feedback and ask them what they really actually want.

When we’re actually asked for feedback, make sure that what we give is only feedback. Right? I did this, that happened. Next, if you are asked for something other than feedback, which is usually what people are asking, they’re wanting to know, and this is what I had asked in the story I share in my article, I shared a story about me asking someone else for feedback.

And along with asking for feedback, I and I had some feedback questions in my list. But I also had some questions that were basically what is your experience? So it wasn’t feedback, and I was clear about that. But if you’re asked for your experience, how do you do that in a way that’s not hurtful, or said better?

How to give Feedback that’s aligned with love

How do you do that in a way that’s aligned with love? Here’s how you do that.

Take personal responsibility for your own experience.

Never talk about your experience or your opinion as ultimate truth, even if you really believe it is what are some ways to do this. You can use the phrase For me, before you make your statement, or you can offer your state or your observation or your opinion, as a question or as an inquiry, for example, instead of saying it was dreadful to have to watch another video, especially one that’s five minutes long, people have short attention spans these days.

Instead of that, say something like, because of my short attention span, I felt less excited about watching the second video. You see the difference? Making the statement it was dreadful.

To have to watch another video is talking about your own experience. But you’re stating it as if it being dreadful is a fact, instead of only your experience. So it’s loving to take ownership of that. And not simply it’s not helpful just to say it was dreadful. We don’t know why. It’s dreadful. Like that’s not helpful feedback. So don’t tell somebody only what you feel or what your experiences.

Why did you have that feeling. So in the reframe, because of my short attention span. That’s why I felt less excited. It’s also a little bit of a tone downward from dreadful. I felt less excited about watching the second video.

You’ll also notice in my reframe, I removed the statement people have short attention spans these days. That’s an opinion, not a fact. And it’s not useful. It’s also if it’s included, saying people have short attention spans these days, is trying to educate someone else about something that they haven’t asked for. And we don’t know if that’s actually true or not. I mean, we could, we could argue about that. But that’s subjective. Maybe the people that you’re marketing to have longer attention spans. Who knows? Right? So taken out of context, that comment is not helpful.

So take personal responsibility for your own experience. For me, I felt less excited about watching the second video because of my short attention span.

Beautiful, beautiful, can you really feel the difference between those two?

Use Critical Thinking

Wait, number two, us use critical thinking. But don’t be critical. Let your critical thinking help what you share to become useful.

Got a couple examples for you here. The difference might sound like this, here’s something that might sound critical. Your rate of speech or pace of speech in the video was unnaturally slow. That’s being critical. Using critical thinking might sound like this. I played around with the replay speed of the video and I was able to absorb the information better when I played it at one and a half speed.

Let’s go to the other example. The critical example. The photo you’re using isn’t very representative of the concept you’re illustrating. That’s critical. Basically pointing out wrongness critical thinking might sound like this. From my perspective, it would help me grasp the concept you’re illustrating if you used X and Y or a and b photos, either of those would convey to me how the point you’re trying to make are true. Do you see the difference? One is simply a criticism.

Just being critical pointing out wrongness unnaturally slow. This a photo not being representative of the concept instead of something constructive about your experience. It’s okay to have your own experience, but make it useful. Do a little of critical thinking.

Always frame your feedback with what you believe is needed to get to excellent work

Next, tip number three. Always frame your feedback with what you believe is needed to get to excellence in your opinion. So this all these points kind of dovetail together.

This one dovetails with a critical thinking piece. But telling someone What’s wrong, doesn’t tell them what’s better. For example, Instead of saying the video was too long and had too much detail, be specific with what details you didn’t need to know. And why. Right.

So if an email is five minutes long, and you watch the video, and you think, oh my god that had way too much detail, what detail is too much? I’ve there’s nothing that I could do with that feedback, or that opinion.

Because I don’t know what was too much detail in what was enough detail, the specific so that your feedback can be useful.

Frame your feedback in relationship to what’s working, or frame how to bring it closer to something you might desire

Point number four, frame your feedback, or opinion, or your experience in relationship to what’s working, or frame how to bring it closer to something you might desire. Here’s an example. Instead of saying something like, This section is cramped and will cause overwhelm. Say something like, I really liked the other section where things seemed to be really spacious, that gave me a sense of calm and ease. I wonder if there’s a way to do something similar here. You feel the difference.

You’re giving your feedback in relationship to what’s working or what worked somewhere else, or something else that you liked. Or you’re sharing the information about what you’re actually looking for? And what might help you experience that.

Why is this important? Because when we’re in relationship with other people, especially if we care about them, and you’re asked for feedback, that is an extremely vulnerable request.

We can do harm when we give feedback that’s ineffective. We can wound hearts. It’s even if we’re when we’re asked for feedback, it sometimes feels like we have, like it’s open season to nitpick and be critical. And in a way, because we’re asked it kind of is open season.

But as this podcast always focuses our attention on love. We want to focus our attention and keep our hearts turned towards love. Even when we’re asked for feedback. Love is always the answer, including when we give feedback.

And I’ll share another lesson that I learned from my request for feedback is that I was unwilling to face the truth of how sensitive I am. And that’s not a weakness, being sensitive. That’s a strength.

If you’re listening to this podcast, you might also be a highly sensitive person, or emotionally intense as I am. You might have neuro divergence like I do. And you might struggle, hearing criticism.

There’s actually a diagnosable syndrome that I mentioned in the article that I have linked here in the show notes.

So feedback can be a really, really difficult thing. So if you’re in relationship with someone who asked for feedback, they likely asked you because they trust you. Don’t betray the trust. give feedback with love.

Do it effectively. And use these four key tools that I shared today. take personal responsibility for your own experience by saying for me, or offered as a question or an inquiry. Number two, use critical thinking, but don’t be critical. Number three, always frame your feedback with what you believe is needed to get to excellence in your opinion. And number four, frame your feedback or opinion in relationship to what’s working or frame it in a way that demonstrates how to bring it closer to something you desire. That will help you give effective and loving feedback.

And as you give and receive feedback, I hope that these tips help you remember that love is always the answer and may you experience more love, not less. Always.

Thank you for being here. We’ll see you next time and may you experience more love, not less – all-ways.SM 💜