Recently after facilitating a fun session on giving and receiving feedback in the morning, I got to practice what we learned that same afternoon.
During the late afternoon meeting a colleague whispered something that made me curious, and then one more message that came as a complete surprise, and then left the event. There was no opportunity for clarification-- just something that felt like a bomb on first impact.
When there is a lesson to be learned, the teacher arrives. What is my lesson here? How can this lesson contribute to my own self-awareness, to my clients and to my work?
Lots of connecting thoughts came following the feedback--along with the title for this post--We ARE meaning making machines! What is your/my default setting? Each of us take in information (feedback) and make our own meanings about it based on so many different things. We each have our habits about how we take it in and the impact it has on us.
Responses from the leadership group, my own personal experience, and my first client meeting the next morning confirmed my belief that a majority of us have the "negative" default setting. One of the first questions I asked in our conversation about feedback was "What keeps us from giving feedback as leaders/managers?" One of the participants noticed that most of the responses to the question contained the underlying assumption that feedback = negative. Though there are different forms of feedback, many of us automatically default to the expectation that feedback is, or will be, challenging or negative.
When I got a challenging message my first response was, "What did I do wrong?" and then I went to "How could I have been misunderstood by my colleague?" The next morning my client was taking total responsibility ("blame") for a circumstance that involved multiple people in the organization. We both felt sad and upset by the feedback when we went to our "default setting" that made it "all about us" and didn't include the whole picture along with curiosity about what we could learn from it.
Since my personal experience I have had ample opportunity to reflect on and integrate my feedback particularly after re-reading one of my favorite books on this subject, "Thanks for the Feedback" by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. I have embraced the concept we discussed in our session yesterday that "feedback is my friend," noticed what the message triggered in me (book outlines three types of triggers--truth, relationship and identity), and acted to understand more about the meaning.
What is YOUR default setting for taking in information/feedback? What choices do you want to make about that setting?