Opening Our Minds to Feedback!

Ready for Opening?

We all hear various types of input about ourselves all day long and all our lives long.  It comes in various forms: criticism, complements, advice, warnings, kidding, hints, etc.  And, many of us give these out like party favors to our friends and family. I finally realized something earlier this Summer when I tried to get my Relative 1 to wear some new shoes.  I had suggested in a variety of ways that his life would improve if he changed his shoes.  I sent him websites, I told him why I like my shoes and how they make walking more enjoyable, etc.  Nada.  I have run into the same response as I’ve tried to encourage my Relative 2 to feed her kids differently – a big NO sign has been written in the sky as in “don’t tell me how to feed my kids, I got it”.  I’m dating one of the best nutritionists in the world and over the course of years I’ve learned more about food and diet than I did in my previous decades of life.  But trying to encourage my relatives to change their behaviors has been unsuccessful to say the least.  So, I had a realization that if a person is not ready to hear feedback in some form, they’re not going to be able to take the information in – whether it’s useful or not, a big wall goes up, and the information is batted back like a baseball sent into the bleachers!

So, the idea I want to share with you is this. Rather than have this experience, how do we all open our minds to be able to hear what is useful that is coming our way?  Rather than deflect, how do we open up our receptors wider when compliments, criticism, feedback of some sort is coming towards us?  Because sometimes there are hidden gems in the dust.  Anytime someone tries to tell us something about ourselves it should be looked at as a gift.  And, interestingly, we often have trouble receiving physical gifts, as well.  My 11 years of attending Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert, and participating in the gifting economy there have taught me a lot about how to give and receive gifts with grace.  And, perhaps there’s a tie-in there, I’m not sure yet.

It seems to me that what’s key here is teaching one another and practicing how to open our minds and our awareness to the messages we’re receiving.  Opening up and letting in.  Breathing in the message, taking it in.  And before we can hear that we need to be doing something differently, or that our toenails need clipping, we have to have our minds open to feedback in general.

So, I want to work with people at this meta-level of receiving information easily.  Does this practice sound like something you’ve heard of before?  Is there already a theory out there that’s been developed that sounds like this?  I’m asking because if not it seems like something that we’d all do well to learn, and learn quickly.  And, if there is something out there like this (and thanks to Susan Cerf for sharing her version of this with me, and article which I’m encouraging her to write…) I’d love to know more about it.

Some have suggested to me that instead of saying “no” to a person’s feedback we can ask “why?”.  And, instead of me telling you that your shoes need tying, I might ask you “are your untied shoes causing a problem for you?”  And, that’s possibly a short-term solution.  But our ability to open our minds to every type of message that’s coming towards us and  figuring out what’s useful and integrating it seems key to me.

Thanks for listening, and I’m ready for your feedback.

11.11.11 – I added a continuation to this idea to my e-letter, The Eleven.  Further comments welcome.

I’ve been thinking a lot about community lately.  Partly because I live in a very rich community environment (many of us refer to it as the Portland bubble) which benefits me greatly, and partly because of how the world is turning these days, I thought I’d share some lessons learned along the way regarding community building.

more 11.11

I think one aspect of community that’s important to its success is communication. The ability of community members (you and me) to be able to hear feedback, accept/hear what’s useful in the information and act/move on it is key. The better we get at giving and receiving feedback to one another the better our relationships will be and the faster we’ll mature. To me, feedback shows that someone cares about someone else. Our society does not really do feedback very well – and because of that, we all generally don’t take to it very well.  In an article I wrote a while back I wrote about how we need to get better at opening our minds.  I think it’s worth a read. (the comments are also very good)

Since then I’ve had some further thoughts about feedback. Here’s a way to handle feedback that gets your hackles up – to be able to more easily parse what’s useful and what’s not within the information.  Imagine that when you give a person feedback (positive or negative) that you are speaking to the 20 million other people who do things that way. That’s a way for both the giver and receiver to depersonalize the experience some so that the triggering of old hurts does not automatically happen.  example: passenger says to driver: “you’re following the car in front of you too closely, please slow down you’re making me uncomfortable”.  So, the driver in this case is like 20 million other drivers who do this thus making 20 million passengers uncomfortable. That said, the driver can either decide to acknowledge the issue, ignore it, or tease out what they feel is useful without taking the criticism of their driving personally. And it goes the other way, too.

When you are the recipient of feedback, imagine that you are one of 20 million people hear it.  Example: Someone compliments your work on a particular issue. Well, they’re complimenting 20 million people who’ve decided to take actions on that or some other issue – you’re in good company.

How does this help build community? Well, it’s one facet in our getting better and better at getting in close with each other and helping one another mature!  And, according to a good friend and amazing therapist, much of her work is about helping people mature because “when they’ve matured, they no longer need therapy”.

So, here’s to improving our communication skills and learning to give and receive feedback well. Of course this is just one area in the communication area and is just one part of building strong communities. These topics are a lot of what I right about so, stick around and perhaps something will appeal to you enough to try it out.  Let me know how it goes!

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Comments

  1. Presume, for a moment, that for your message to be truly integrated, the speaker will have to be pushing that message onto someone else – as a provocateur, then, a goal can be to get them to tell YOU what you value – perhaps by seeming to embrace a value that would require them to take that position.

    Another portion of the metavirus is that listeners are listening for themselves. If the advice they hear seems to come from themselves, then they’ll absorb it. The contrapositive of this means that if a person hears a trigger for ‘other’, then the message is rejected summarily.

    The implication of this is that the goal is to have your listener first presume that you are them, or of them. This can be hacked through all of the layers of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, such as food, security, comfort, belonging needs. If you have a message to spread, spend your first layer establishing your platform from which to speak. Spend the next layer avoiding the topic – do everything except bring up that topic. Eventually, bargain your hard work in the direction THEY were going, for the right to ask for an adjustment to the trajectory.

    metavirus!

  2. You are asking an interesting question and I very much like (and practice) the approach you are taking. Asking questions is a far more gentle way to (lets be honest) manipulate/encourage/empower change than proclaiming the other is doing it wrong. The proclamation of Wrong implies that you/I know what is correct or better — and how the hell could we possibly know what is correct or best for another person ?

    Most people don’t seem to know why they do something, and in my own experiences, don’t like to be questioned as to why they’re doing something. As if the questions are invasive somehow, or compromises our trust in them, or they feel we undermine their control of their own situation. Which in reality, it does. Asking someone “Why are you doing it this way?” does park a wedge in their process, doing so might just trip them up entirely. For those of us looking to understand why we do things the way we do, and are interested in altering to a better way by practicing constant assessments, this wedge in our process is welcome even when it’s uncomfortable. For others the wedge maybe too uncomfortable to bear, it’s too hard, answering Why takes too much effort and time. “Why?” can be a hard question to answer, especially if someone is not practiced at thinking about “why?”

    Perhaps engaging the people around us with a mixture of asking why as well as encouraging and empowering them with less challenging feedback, so they become more willing to open up to the thinking process.

  3. With the scale of the Portal and how it came together or didn’t, I have been asking people in the crew to give me a review, to give the project, give me, feedback. It’s been a practice of mine, and it’s always telling when there’s reticence to respond. There has been, yes, but no more than at other times. I have many notions and knowings about this to share, but mostly that I have valued in solitude anyone’s willingness to be direct, to arc toward artfully direct, compassionately direct. Because we all see and know things, and for the large part we keep people’s secrets. That’s a different thing perhaps than your asking for feedback, but stems for the same root. My feedback is that your text is too … iffy. Too deliberately wondering, as if in holding a neutral or exploratory space you provide safe entry for the reader. For example, what if instead of “why?”, one says, “Thank you”?

    This opens a discussion for me which won’t be explored fully for some time, and I have little today. But thank for cracking that door among your mailing list. It’s a worthy discussion.

    Mark

  4. From Edie @ edie@ediereid.com

    Alberto-flirto

    You are an amazing broadcaster. The information you share is priceless.

    Can you offer your well thought out ideas without being attached to
    the outcome of your beloveds who may not fully receive your gift? Some
    may need several impressions perhaps from more than one source before
    they adopt a change.

    It is not unusual for those out in front (YOU) cutting through the
    waves to be the first one to share an idea or thought.

    You are a visionary. Please continue casting out armloads of ideas
    (photo of ancient farming method here) and they will bloom when they
    are ready.

    With great appreciation,
    E

  5. http://Torria says

    I think, if you have asked the question, “how do we all open our minds to be able to hear what is useful that is coming our way? “, you are ready to hear answers, suggestions, observations etc. You are already open. It only applies to the person that has asked the question. There’s so much information we have to intake on a daily basis, we have to be able to process it based on what are needs are at the moment it comes to us. There is a thing call Too Much Information, and we don’t want to use up energy processing it all. I also find it’s best to ask the person if they even want information that I have. I can put energy into talking about other things we may have in common, instead of giving them useless info they don’t care about or advice they will never use. But I like to leave the option open if they ever do want information, I have some and am willing to share it.

  6. http://mi%20corazon says

    Hello Albert of the interesting questions. When I read your post the first thing I thought of was the Four Agreements, specifically the intentions to be impeccable with your word and to take nothing personally. These may not completely address what you’re after but they are 2 practices that cut through ego attachments pretty well. It’s ego/identity attachment (as well as the hierarchy of needs an earlier poster mentioned) that seem at the root of deflection and rejection of new or challenging info. when less ego maintenance is involved we’re way more relaxed and available to receive new messages and also to align more deeply with the person we’re communicating with. For that we need safety and that safety can be generated from within via inner practices of non-attachment or from outside via practices like nvc or other interpersonal commitments to reduce attack/defend habits

    One other thought I had related also to an earlier comment was about something called motivational interviewing which is used alot with folks who are dealing with addictions, the point being to generate openness to change by supporting it to come from within, ie not from “other”but from “self”

    Anyway thanks for asking interesting questions and reminding me to stay alert to that which my ego wants to reject out of habit or defensiveness

    besos,
    Gwenn

  7. http://Kundalini says

    Hi Albert,

    I think it is nice that you desire to be helpful to others, and it seems to me that the piece that may be missing is the other person perceiving that they want or need your help or advice. I love your idea of asking them if their untied shoes are causing them any difficulty, because it is quite possible that they may feel that the benefits to untied shoes truly outweigh the drawbacks. If you asked them about this, YOU might actually learn a thing or two and adopt for yourself the practice of going around with your shoes untied. If they are not having a problem with the way something is, or wanting help with it, then I think it is presumptuous (and perhaps even arrogant) to think that they would want or need something that you may find to be of great value to yourself. I think the best way to share your great ideas of how to live is to quietly demonstrate by example and if they see something that you are doing which they value or admire, they will likely ask you about it, and at that time you will have the green light to share and contribute to them in a way that will be meaningful and welcome to them. I have finally come around to the realization that there are so many ways in which I can grow and improve myself that I would probably do best to put my energies there, rather on how I see that others could improve their situations, and in doing so I find people seeking me out for guidance and asking for my thoughts and ideas on things. When asked, I am happy to share. Otherwise I try to “live and let live”.
    Love,
    Kundalini

  8. http://Shingyo%20Shelley says

    Kundalini, Thank you for so elegantly writing what seems to me like such a simple principle in living and being whole. Especially lovely and gently put, “I have finally come around to the realization that there are some many ways in which I can grown and improve myself that I would probably do best to put my energies there, rather [than] on how I see that others could improve their situtations [arrogance and dualistic], and in doing so I find people seeking me out for guidance and askng for my thoughts and ideas on things. When asked, I am happy to share. Otherwise I try to “live and let live.” Ahhh…feels like wisdom in my humble experience. At first I though the original post was a joke or tongue-in-cheek.
    Now I see…
    Namaste’, Shelley

  9. here’s an interesting article that came in that seems related to this topic! http://www.beamsandstruts.com/articles/item/836-think

  10. I love all your sharing and am always open to listening. My feedback on what you shared:

    I was once told by a wise teacher… When the student is READY, the teacher will appear. Another wise teacher said…”Please don’t answer a question I have NOT asked!” I am reminded Albert, of the many religious people who had knocked on my door over the years whom…. I had not invited, or requested, or shown any interest in. Also vacuum cleaner, make up and others! So I realized a long time ago, that unless someone comes to me and Requests information about something I am doing or using or eating or wearing… then they most likely are not interested. There is little difference, because I am assuming to know what “I think” would be “good for them!” Different products of course, however, the same attitude! I use some wonderful laces I love, love, love! No more lacing my tennis shoes which was difficult for me. They are incredible!! However, when I shared them a couple times with my daughter, whose daughter never ever ties her shoes and always leaves the laces dragging, they never were interested in me giving a pair as a gift even! So I let it go!

    Regarding FOOD. I have studied food for too many years to count and I am 69, put on my first diet at 9 years old and striving to resolve my weight issue since then! I have studied raw, paleo, Ayurvedic, blood type, and on and on. Eat organic fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds and rarely any grains. Drink only water. Been eating organic wholesome food for over 40 years when we began organic gardening over half our food in Iowa and gave up all chemicals in our food and most sugar. Exercise, have not been sick with anything at all…cold, flue, head ache, cough for over 6 years or so. Improved my vision so I can drive without glasses and I wore then since I was 7!! Yet the weight remains. We are Each UNIQUE in how we utilize our foods. Our mental, emotional health is as important as our beliefs about what we eat. I have known friends who eat mostly foods I would not put in my body and yet… are very healthy! There are many examples on both sides. When we find something that transforms our lives, naturally we want to share. However, assuming what worked for you would “surely” work for others is a… “one size fits all” mentality. How many diets are out there and statistics say barely 12% of people have success with any of them. When I gave paleo a try (I was just willing to try anything one time) I almost passed out in the Keto stage and my naturopath told me to STOP right now! I know you have the BEST intentions. I believe we Demonstrate best by Example and when someone notices how healthy you are now and are interested in how you got there, they will ask. Or you can mention to friends, if someone wants to know how you became so much healthier, just ask and leave it at that. I just wanted to share and I LOVE that you share so many things so freely and openly!

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