The Pains and the Gains of Tough Feedback

During this past week, I was on the receiving end of a couple of pieces of pretty challenging feedback. You know, the kind that makes you squirm in your boots and has you feeling downright uncomfortable. In fact, it rocked me. In both cases, it was good friends letting me know about things that I had said that resulted in them feeling pretty out of sorts.

Personally, I’m not great at letting people know when I feel I’ve been wronged. In fact, I think it’s very much in the Kiwi culture to carry on and say nothing. Kim Scott, in her book Radical Candour, calls this ‘ruinous empathy’. I think she’s spot on.

I am so grateful to my two friends for not choosing the ruinous empathy path. If they had, I would have been none the wiser, and they would have likely been harbouring some level of resentment. By having the courage to speak up, they gave our relationship a chance of being strengthened, rather than being eroded.

Our conversations weren’t about me being ‘wrong’ and them being ‘right’. They were about my friends honestly expressing what they had experienced. We gave each other the opportunity to explore each others’ perspectives and motives. We gave each other, as my friend Jamie Scott says, ‘a damn good listening to’.

As a result, we cleared the air. We agreed that things felt cleaner between us. And because we got to a place of deep honesty, I reckon we strengthened our relationship. I feel that I can trust them each to be honest with me, and I can be the same with them.

One of the worst things we can do to people is to not let them know. It’s better to be clean and clear than to be silent and seething. Unshared feedback can eat away at you and take up space in your mind that could be better used for more productive activities. 

Am I perfect in this regard? Not by a million miles. There are people in my life that I wish I’d had the courage to share my own grievances with. It’s something I’m slowly getting better at, and yet I know for me that it’s a big mountain to climb.

What helps me? I start by asking myself “how much do I truly care about my relationship with this person?” The stronger my leaning towards ‘a lot’, the more likely it is that I’ll do something about it.

Let them know. As painful as it might be in the moment, I reckon you’ll both be better for it.

Image Credit: Ngupakarti,

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