Feedback loops are at the very heart of our capacity to self-organize. They are what allow us to work together organically. We have to get them right. Feedback is what allows us to adjust behavior, to shift our approach, to adapt in ways that make self-organization possible. But feedback can get really hard for highly sensitive, emotional, social animals like ourselves.
Most of us know that it is a bad idea to offer feedback when we are triggered. What comes out of our mouth when we speak from an emotionally wounded place will always be about us and our hurt - it is our trigger speaking and it will not be about the situation. This is not very good feedback. This only says to the other person “don’t go there! Don’t ever go there again!” It shuts down generative conversation. It limits the possibility of change.
It is smart to wait until we’ve regained our center before we offer challenging feedback.
There is a flip side to this dynamic. We can also err on holding our feedback for too long. I recently had this experience. I have a working relationship that I have long found frustrating. It is a relationship with a big client and I’m not the only consultant implicated. There is a power dynamic, which always makes it more challenging to offer feedback.
I held on to the feedback for a long time. Until the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was certainly calm when I offered the feedback, but it was significantly disproportional to the triggering event. The client had no idea that it was coming. The person was shocked. I was ready to terminate a relationship that they thought was working.
My approach was unfair. The problem is real and it needs to be addressed. But I did myself and the client a disservice by holding on to my frustration for as long as I did. I have certainly been on the receiving end of such feedback and I know I have felt aggrieved.
The lesson is an important one - don’t give feedback while you are too hot, give yourself time to cool down, but definitely don’t hold on to a frustration for too long. It doesn’t serve you and it doesn’t serve the relationship that you are working to improve.