Have you ever really looked at how you communicate or don’t with other people?
Have you ever noticed that when you are given feedback that people will often try to make the feedback palatable, and in doing so the communication becomes ambiguous leaving a lot of room for misinterpretation?
In a recent exchange I got to experience this first hand. I was given feedback in the form of a statement where it was suggested that perhaps I was reading too much and not experiencing the learning. Well I tell you what, this statement brought up every ounce of not good enough and not doing it right that could ever be possible for me.
Doing my personal work has allowed me to recognize that these statements were the little voice in my head speaking. This voice often does me no favors. I have the propensity at times to believe what this little voice says is true.On the flip side, I am beginning to recognize that this voice starts talking because I am hearing something that is not being said or putting in meaning that is not really there (this is where the ambiguous part comes in.)
With this experience I decided to return to the person who made the statement for clarity. So the conversation went round and round trying to be clear in what I was hearing. The person with whom I was speaking was continuing to be non-direct until finally they had negated everything they had originally given feedback about. I then asked what they were really trying to communicate. At this point the feedback became more direct. I was asked the question “Are you using reading as a way of checking out and not experiencing what is going on around you?”
For me the statement about reading too much and not experiencing the learning and the question “Are you using reading as a way of checking out and not experiencing what is going on around you?” are vastly different. The second question for me leaves no room for that not good enough voice, that doing it wrong voice. It offers me a place to check in.
The interesting thing is that further conversation shared that the person giving the feedback delivered it in that ambiguous fashion in order to stay safe, be heard, and avoid confrontation. The kicker is in avoiding confrontation, misunderstanding actually created confrontation. In speaking in ambiguous terms the situation of not being heard was created.
I sit and ponder how often I try to communicate in that “nice” ambiguous way and by doing so create more issues than were there with the feedback I was attempting to give in the first place? Or worse, I communicate in that ambiguous fashion to be nice and then end up with frustration and anger that surface because I am not being heard.
I think my learning over the past few days looks like this. It is important in human relationships to communicate directly. I must ask what is true for me to communicate instead of trying to couch feedback in ambiguous language to avoid confrontation or stay safe. I could also say there is much learning in letting go of the need to be heard, and that is another conversation entirely.
The biggest learning for me though is how self critical my little voice becomes when feedback becomes too broad. This is a constant point of choosing to be loving to myself instead of tearing myself down. I now recognize that in choosing to love myself I am choosing to speak clearly and directly. I am also choosing to make new agreements with the people in my world asking them to say what needs to be said directly, in the form of a question. this way I may look directly at the question instead of making all kinds of CRAP up about what is trying to be said. That feels more loving for sure!