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Receiving Feedback as a Gift

What's your reaction to the title of this blog? Understandably, many of us may have an adverse reaction to feedback based on how it may have been used with us.

In the world of improvisation – both in the theater and beyond (where we call it “applied improvisation”) – we say that “Everything is an Offer”. Anything that happens verbally, non-verbally, inside our own self, between us, in the environment is an offer.

Then we have a choice what to do with it.

We can block it or accept it.

If we are in an improv scene and you say “Hey doc, I’m here for my 2pm appointment.” And I say, “I’m not a doctor, I’m standing here waiting for the bus”, that’s blocking. I’m denying the reality that you put forth.

When we accept the offer there are multiple directions the scene could go; there are multiple ways to accept that offer.

In our work lives we have choices all the time to accept or block offers. It’s important to note that acceptance does not mean agreement. To “accept an offer” means that I’m acknowledging what you put forth, and hopefully building with it.

Sometimes this takes some effort to ask, “Which part of what’s happening will I accept and build upon; what can I say YES to.”

In the realm of feedback we can often want to block it or deny it (another form of blocking really), because it can be hard to hear what people are saying. Sometimes it’s hard because we are allowing this feedback to go deeper than it needs to go. We are allowing the feedback to burrow it’s way into our self-identity.

Often unconsciously we may travel down a string of assumptions we don’t realize we are making. I’m hearing I didn’t do well with this project, then I must not be good at what I do, then I must be a failure, etc.

What if we saw feedback as a gift, as an offer that we have the opportunity to accept, an offer that we can receive with open hands, set down, unpack and see what learning could take place?

I’ll share a personal example that I’ve been pondering this week.

I have realized that when I get overwhelmed it’s a gift. (Now, granted I don’t always see that in the moment, but it’s starting to shift.) Here’s what I mean: Feeling anxious or overwhelmed is feedback - feedback from my body-mind that I’m overloaded.

I can either block or accept that offer. If I block it, I often wish it wasn’t there; just try to ignore it and push on.

If I accept it, and see that feedback from my body as a gift, I can go down the path of asking myself “What do I need?” or “What’s most important for me at this moment, in this day?”

Overwhelm is a gift from my body telling me,“I’m flooded. Please make adjustments.”

If I didn’t get that feedback from my body, I would probably end up doing more chronic damage to myself.

Tuning into our body correlates to tuning into the living organism of our team, our organization. When we don’t have feedback, we cannot know how to adjust. The energy gets stuck; it gets misused. When we give feedback and can receive it as a gift we are building the relational infrastructure that builds trust and allows energy and information to flow throughout the system that is your organization, your team, your own body.

What would be possible if you saw feedback in a whole new light?

P.s. Do you want your team / organization to get better at giving and receiving feedback? If so, let’s talk. I’d be glad to lead your team/organization through a highly-interactive workshop I've designed on Feedback.

David : )

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