Soliciting Feedback

Soliciting Feedback image

“Houston we have a problem…”

Receiving honest feedback or better yet, soliciting honest feedback is a terribly challenging thing to do initially. Often we are afraid of the answers. We just don’t want our eyes opened to them. We’re afraid of change and the emotional and physical toll on our psyche in accomplishing them. Lastly I feel that we’re also very much afraid of being accountable and taking responsibility for our actions and behaviors in how they affect others and how they affect our relationships. It’s just simply easier to stay comfortable in not knowing, not addressing and not being accountable.

Mind the Sting…

Don’t react to the initial sting of negative feedback, by becoming defensive or guarded. The sting is there to get your attention and to call upon your focus. Learn to recognize it as such. Critical events are confidence-testing junctures and almost always opportunities for learning even though they are moments in which you are managing conflict. With receiving feedback your competence and individual performance are being addressed by your partner as she is expressing her emotional needs. If unsolicited and the more raw, insightful and direct with regards to your long-standing personal traits or behaviors, these can very much trigger self-esteem and self-image issues of the ego in adverse ways. Recognize the value of this opportunity and the information being presented, as it will likely hold value you haven’t addressed or capitalized on and is coming from a trusted source with intimate knowledge of the subject at hand.

 “Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them”

The initial shock to your system will dissipate shortly, if you have the appropriate frame of mind and stay positive by living in the moment. You’re a man. This is the time to display those qualities associated with stoic calm, self-control and fortitude of mind. This is your chance to showcase leadership through example and action that you are able to overcome immediate destructive emotions that will limit communication, reduce trust, marginalize respect and deter potential for personal growth. The qualities of being open, receptive and supporting of personal accountability to your behavior and how you make others experience being around and with you, is central to high emotional quotient leadership and diplomacy, which is essential to being successful in our world today.

I’ll take that criticism with a side of understanding, performance optimization and positive incentives, please!

Criticism is not appropriate feedback for a healthy and respectful relationship. Criticism without a better cognitive understanding of the issue being addressed, alternative task performance behaviors options and positive incentives or associations with performance objectives, creates stress and anxieties which left unchecked will fester into a negative relationship spiral of hostility and resentment, leading to deeper future tensions and conflicts. The point of feedback is not just to alert one to an issue, but to provide constructive means of developing awareness of behavioral consequences, alternative strategies, techniques or procedures to mitigate such performances, and to develop a bond between the parties of trust and respect throughout the interaction, which is the hallmark of developing empathy within a relationship.

Nagging is not your life on auto-correct!

If your partner is unaware of the importance of respectful feedback to a relationship , unfamiliar with actually providing constructive and supportive feedback, it is up to you as the leader within the relationship to maintain that boundary issue of respect, consideration and clear communication, by addressing this deficit by teaching and coaching them through the process of it. Often to have effective communication, we have to clear the channels of communication of what is hindering information navigation. Nowhere is this more important than when dealing with personal animosities and incompatibilities while trying to be emotionally supportive within an intimate relationship. We must first establish the patterns and formats of constructive communication prior to actually attempting to communicate.

Be Gracious…

What we do speaks louder than our words… When your partner is providing you sincere feedback, be gracious and extend a strong measure of gratitude by actively listening to what they have to say without distraction, without proffering excuses. Practice all the skills of an effective listener, by having open and receptive body language and posture, kind and welcoming facial expressions and actively encouraging them to continue to discussion the situation, it’s context, the specific performance tasks being addressed, with possible alternative solutions, as well as the incentives to doing so. This respectful behavior shows your partner that you care and respect them. That their concerns matter to you. That they matter to you.

“Ouch!”

Be aware of becoming defensive and that the more critical the feedback is, the more likely you are to feel defensive. It is completely alright to take a moment and acknowledge that you’re feeling vulnerable and defensive with your partner prior to continuing. Feel free to share that information openly. They likely are to relate that they are feeling the same way in addressing you and bringing it up. It’s common ground. It’s common ground you can work with. It’s common ground you both share in valuing the other. Acknowledging that can reduce the tensions, anxieties and frustrations a great deal prior to continuing.

Check the message

As you actively listen to your partner, seek out opportunities in which you can check and verify your understanding of what they are attempting to communicate to develop a solid consensus of what the real issue is. If you are unclear or unsure of their intent ask and probe for specifics to provide more clarification, until you are sure and they are aware of it. Make sure you are able to communicate back to them the context, the specific performance task in question, what it means to them, how it makes them feel and how its affects their perception of the relationship.

Seek out solutions

Compassionate leaders value others and their input in collaborative problem solving. They will seek out their input in crafting responsive solutions and smart answers to problems. They don’t believe they have and hold all the answers, nor believe that an awareness to a problem is the solution to it. Compassionate leaders have a solid belief that they can find and discover appropriate solutions in conjunction with others, and strengthen the relationship and themselves in the process. Compassionate leaders embrace the power of creativity in navigating challenges. They are able to successfully harness imagination and incentive to drive the engine of change. The power of solution seeking is about your values, confidence and connectedness with the issue and people surrounding them.

 Provide Thanks…

Never conclude a feedback session with “OK.” Much like the Olympic gymnastics, you need to stick the dismount. You need to provide and sincere ‘thank you’ and show your appreciation at their care and consideration, respect and support in voicing their concerns with you. You need to do the same in recognition of that fact. It’s not just good manners, it’s good relationship management.

It may be them, not you…

Not all feedback may be legitimate. You may actually disagree and that’s fine, as long as you clearly understand what your partner has tried to address, how it has made them feel and you’ve been respectful and open to their position and have taken all of it into consideration upon your conclusion. Other times you may not be as sure. At those junctures it would be wise to seek the insights and feedback from others you trust and respect, to gather more information and determine the reliability of the initial insights.

Follow up

While it is highly important to seek solutions to improve, make sure that your partner is prepared to assist you in recognizing when you’re making an attempt at change and to call attention to it while you are doing so in the form of praise, but to benchmark progress to review your performance over time to verify performance modification and acceptance. Doing so will help remove uncertainty which distracts from actual task performance, improve your motivation and lead to more efficient and healthy relationship.

Simple mind reading

When surveyed people were asked how happy they were in their relationship, which was remarkably accurate in predicting the longevity of the relationship over the course of the survey period. Short of mind reading our partners the best alternative is to solicit their opinions directly. Having the self-confidence, courage and integrity to seek their guidance, input and feedback during the relationship can help you mitigate facing the same issues, in a brutal fashion, when she leaves a failed relationship. Either way you’re going to get the feedback, one way or another.

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Developing Empathy Skills within Relationships

 

 

 

 

In the age of sharply increased narcissism, empathy is a dying art.

 

Bad Seeds…

True Alpha males make shitty relationship partners. Their well established brand of endless string of short-term failed relationships and prepotency for fast fused-quick to fizzle marriages are a pure testament to this, as are the baggage laden train wrecks that follow in their wake. While the alpha attraction triggers female hypergamy on many levels, it fails to transition into appropriate nurturing roles which are critically needed to sustain long-term committed relationships. Their low emotional quotient (EQ) plays out as they tend to find themselves to be constantly at odds with others, in a state of being angry, stressed and frustrated, acting out in a controlling manner, which ultimately leads people to push away and tune them out. Ask any child of an overbearing parent.

Remove the Negatives First

It will be no surprise to most to know that empathy is one of the main components of emotional intelligence and that empathic people are skilled in placing themselves inside the shoes of others and seeing the world through another person’s perspective. The problem isn’t the awareness of the skill, but their implementation that stymies people. In trying to improve almost anything it is vastly more effective to remove a detriment than add an accruement. As such we’ll discuss first behaviors that should be removed or reduced.

Lack of Role Models

Our exposure to multiple role models to gather and develop early behavioral traits and reference points for learning social skills is fundamental in our development as adults, as those without them will be at a severe disadvantage to learning appropriate ones, as they will be ignorant of them or exposed to poor ones. Additionally individuals embracing a arch-type that is obsolete can be more detritus than not having an acceptable one, as the individual will need to let go of their false belief system first prior to learning and developing new skill sets, which never seems to happen without a major life crisis. In this regard family structure, the quality of parenting and exposure to appropriate social culture cues largely prepare and determine one’s preliminary social skill sets, to include empathy, leadership abilities along with many others.

At a Drop of a Hat

Sadly empathy is sacrificed when we are upset, angry, disappointed or frustrated. We must not only fight this natural impulse, but to be well aware how our lack of empathy at these times tends to make the most horrific, life impacting emotional wounds when we fail to control ourselves and lash out on blind compulsion. We need to be aware of how we influence our relationships by not only what and how we say what we do, but the manner and regard for how we care for the people we are interacting with when emotions have put so much at stake. While a liberal use of diplomacy and tact is called for a clear sign that we should be on point is any time anger, frustration or disappointment first raises it head.

Double Standards

We all know the ‘Golden Rule’ of treating others the way you would want to be treated, but are we really holding ourselves to the standard we place on other’s behaviors to you? Would you find your behavior acceptable if someone else did it to you? It is all too common to leave our own behaviors unobserved, but they are precisely the behaviors in which are most visible to others and as a consequence of this human trait, leave us incredibly vulnerable to their impact on the relationship. It is important to remember that one can be empathic, validate another person’s view point and yet still disagree. An important step in doing so is developing a personal boundary of dropping any double standards that may exist.

Relating Instead of Understanding

In a misguided attempt to relate and thus foster a sense of rapport and connection with others, we will often try to relate to what they are saying in our own lives and then share that. While fine on occasion it can lead to a situation where the speaker does not feel they are being truly herd or listened to and comes across as a ‘me-too’ type of one-upmanship conversation. Left un-checked it can have negative impact on the relationship, as it is a detriment to shared understanding, as the comparison does little to foster greater insight or further the rapport with the speaker. Instead of proffering a similar comparison, ask a simple question of ‘what did that mean to them?’, ‘How did that make them feel?’ or ‘why was that important to you?’ can go a long way in fostering the connection we think we’re trying to make.

Not Being Present

The less we are being in the moment, truly utilizing the skills of actively listening, the harder it is to tune into other people’s feelings and intentions, which is critical to providing emotional support, as they are communicating them. In our rush to project ahead, to get to the bend in the conversation and to frame our response, we completely lose sight of the reason of our conversation in the first place, sharing information as a means to build, maintain and sustain the relationship.

Accentuating the Positive

Having removed many of the common obstacles to greater empathic understanding and relating with our partners, we can progress into understanding common traits that will enhance and further our empathic skills which will serve to strengthen these important emotional bonds.

Drop Your Agenda

A central part of being present is setting aside your beliefs, concerns and dropping your personal agenda in order to fully hear what your partner is saying. It is the skill of going into a conversation without expectations, without goals of fixing or resolving issues first. Our presuppositions muddy the communication and our thinking process. Our only agenda is listening to our partner’s feelings, sentiments, points of view and reference points in attempts to understand where they are coming from and what they are trying to express. We are listening to gain their perspective. Once we have listened and we’re sure they have been heard correctly can the communication progress from there.

Getting Beyond the Facts

Most of us consider listening to be made up of clearly able to understand the ‘Who, What, Where, When , Why and How’ of what is being communicated, but fail to take into true account the speakers emotional state, energy, tone and body language as they are communicating. These social clues can be imperative to developing a connection and understanding between the parties, as much as the words expressed. Frequently what being said isn’t nearly as important, as what’s not being said, but otherwise communicated. Learning to fully watch, as well as to listen to our partner strengthens the connection between the cognitive and emotional brain which leads to deep emotional rapport that is defined as empathic connection.

An Indian’s Moccasins

In actively listening to our partner we are trying to place ourselves in their shoes, to see the situation from their position, their emotional standing point and how that is affecting them. If you are unsure, it is completely reasonable and beneficial to simply ask… ask them ‘How do you feel about that?’ ‘What does that mean to you?’, ‘Do you mean that you feel…X?’ etc… learning to use open-ended questions regarding thoughts, feelings and beliefs can not only clarify an issue but bring underlying driving issues to the forefront, often these will be issues surrounding emotional needs.

Relate to their Inner-Child

In times of high contest, immense emotional fray, over-whelming pressure and expectations we are faced with a situation that has created a barrier to communication and connection that seem insurmountable. At times like these a simple and effective strategy of visualizing our partner as their vulnerable inner-child we can lower and lessen our defenses, that will then allow us to preserve the relationship and communicate in an effective way. It is by a combination of seeing through our partner’s presence for the vulnerable person that they are and defusing the emotional intensity that we can then focus on the issue at hand without being distracted by the enormity of them or the situation.

If we want our partners to appreciate what we are communicating, if we want them to respond to and work cooperatively with us, then we must consider their perspective, how they perceive us, how they perceive how they’ve been heard and how they’ve been received by what they’ve expressed . Utilizing empathy is key element within this whole process of communication, emotional needs expression and grounding and solidifying the relationship.

 

DIPLOMACY- The art of soft leadership

“A soft answer turns away wrath”

Diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting communication between representatives. They are the skill sets for building relationships, developing allies and collaborating with adversaries and naysayers to promotes and advance ideas, thoughts and beliefs. Diplomacy is the cumulative effect of a number of qualities working together; insight into human nature, sympathy, self-control, influencing others, minimizing friction and patience. Exercising these wisdoms in combination with sensitivity in our communication with others often determines the wellbeing of our relationships. It is not enough to speak a truth, but to voice that truth with care and consideration. It is that sense of touch, intuitive perception and skill in dealing with people, to find the proper fit in recognizing mutual rights and expectations of what, how and the way we communicate. It is not only kindness, but kindness skillfully extended that culminates the act of diplomacy.

Employing Tact

Most people focus exclusively on content and the direct elements of influencing others in their communications, while ignoring the vital components of timing and tact. The skills of exercising patience in thinking before we speak, questioning the timing and appropriateness of if and when we respond, by actively listening to our partner and controlling our emotions when we do, are fundamental to developing tact, which is an essential element of being diplomatic. Equally as important, is controlling the tone and delivery of how we state our position utilizing empathy. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it that leaves a lasting impression and shapes the future of the relationship. Knowing how to choose the appropriate words, emotional tone and non-verbal body language will insure your message is delivered appropriately and effectively. Ultimately it the speaker who is responsible for the communication, because they are the author of it.

Fostering Collaboration

It is not enough to be skillful in carefully navigating through tense discussions, delicate situations or critical confrontations. Leaders today are expected to artfully develop the atmosphere conducive to communication, foster a network of shareholders and stakeholders, while finding a consensus among the opposed and removing alienation, to progressively move ideas and ideals forward. The founding element to establishing this is making sure that your audience will be prepared to give you the time, opportunity and reception, to hear your ideas and positions when you need it. This is accomplished by effective socialization prior to any event, to make sure that time and emotional distance does not play a factor in communicating when you need to. That in effect, you have on deposit a reserve of emotional trust, respect and familiarity upon which you can draw when needed. It is critical that if we are to influence large groups that we start with individuals, to start to build any collaboration upon. The best allies are those you already know and have established relationships with and having share mutual emotional needs, not those born out of necessity.

Finding Consensus

The first element in building a consensus is to hear what the parties have to say. None is more important than to hear from your potential detractors, as they have a perspective and point of view to which they are partial to cling to and influence others from. Understanding it, where they are coming from, and what their interests are, can be critical to preemptively addressing it. By building a collective knowledge base of those around you and not laying claim to any single idea or solution, you set the ground work to discuss the merits of, rather than the position of an idea, and vastly increase the likelihood and probability that an idea or solution will be picked up and championed by those that are exposed to it or potentially against one initially.

Dealing with Naysayers

Naysayers may feel like an obstacle and hindrance. Don’t take that bait. Your emotional control and your ability to bring them along will allow you to building better insights and better arguments and plans to move an idea forward, which is the essence of leadership. It will be important to foster rapport, respect and trust by listening fully to what they have to say and understand not only what they say, but also what they mean. It is infinitely more effective to engage a naysayer in private, where the risks are low, than to do so publicly, when there is more at stake and vested than just the issue at hand. Brining them into the process early, by asking their opinion or seeking their influence can strengthen your position by exploring, finding and jointly determining the crux of an issue and formulating a response to it. By developing an amiblicle relationships with a naysayers in advance, you are aware and can recognize when an opportunity exists to capitalize upon moments of opportunity, when the potential naysayers will be more inclined to be receptive to an idea or solution, while simultaneously removing much of the hostility and alienation that comes with conflict and open disagreement, where both parties can agree to disagree, with the naysayer being a party to and along for the ride with a solution, even while holding opposing views.

When you master the art of diplomacy you will be a better leader, agent of change and a better relationship builder and partner, by cultivating power, authority through influence and creating an atmosphere that is open and receptive to communication, without being intimidating and domineering. It is important to realize that a person convinced against their will, is a person of the same opinion still, just silenced. That silence is a poisoned well upon which you’ll surely drink eventually.

Providing Emotional Support

Treat others as they want to be treated

What’s empathy have to do with it?

Emotional support is a fundamental form of communication, basic to the human experience and pervasive in everyday life. At its center is empathy, the capacity to recognize and share feelings that are being experienced by another. Empathy is the foundation of good two-way communication and is an important determinant of satisfaction within relationships. It is not surprising that those who value emotional support skills and are adept at providing it tend to be popular, satisfying relationship partners. Being empathetic is seeing from another person’s perspective regardless of your own opinion or belief. It is the ability to share their excitement in times of achievement, to offer encouragement in times of difficulty and safety in times of failure. It is through shared empathy that we develop trust and intimacy.

 Value follows energy

Attention is the means by which you give something or someone importance in your life. Indiscriminate, undirected attention can become ineffectual or oppressive depending upon circumstance. Everyone knows this instinctively, but few act on it consciously. Attention doesn’t have to be continuous either, in fact a single segment of 20-minutes of undivided attention per day with your partner can have significant positive impact on the quality and intimacy of your relationship and is often only what they need or desire.

 What lips do not speak, the hands convey…

Emotional support comes in a variety of shapes and forms, but one of the most effective is role of touching. Sadly most people are touch starved. The world of touch is where intimacy, love and sex all come together. Holding hands, walking arm in arm and cuddling are just some of the simpler ways we share this powerful experience, but couples forget that it is a distinct essential need and desire. Learn to naturally express your sentiments via touching your partner on a regular basis, not just to sexually stimulate your partner into arousal.

 Emotional failure

Much of the emotional support received in everyday life addresses ordinary upsets, distresses, and hurts, which might not appear to have significant or lasting impact on most people, yet substantial evidence shows that these minor events are major determinants of moods and psychological well-being. However as a skill set emotional support can be beneficial or it can be detrimental, as poor-quality emotional support exacerbates an already stressful situation. Men typically fail at the basic level of providing emotional support due to a lack of understanding, poor empathy, misallocation of focus, attention or outside distraction, and are unskilled or inexperienced in the art of emotional touch, that can lead to emotional nurturing and healing. Often this is compounded by gender roles as men who are taught to lead, protect and to provide, do just that when their partner is truly in search of compassion and understanding, not resolutions.

 The White Knight Syndrome

In an effort to help their partners cope effectively with an emotional distress men will try to resolve the issue themselves by providing for the woman directly. While this may indeed solve the immediate issue at hand, it is a woeful practice, as it undermines your partner’s self-respect and self-esteem, leaving them beholden to you, rather than developing their own sense of achievement and success, by resolving their issues themselves. Doing so often promotes not only natural jealousy in reflection of it, but a simmering seething resentment at their own failures to cope that will ultimately get re-directed at you. Nowhere is this more apparent than when it centers on finances and her sense of identity as a self-supporting adult. This goes double for a woman who’s been cultured to feel self-entitled, special and privileged, as much of the American ala carte feminist princess-class is today. This is due to the fact that there is a lot of fear, shame and self-contempt involved in needing assistance and it underscores the nature of her reality, especially in regards to sex roles. No one likes to be shown to be inferior to their own sense of self-ideals. In the action to help resolve an issue, you’re also destroying someone’s self-esteem by tearing down their self-illusions. When the generosity is repeated enough that it underscores a severe imbalance within the relationship, you promote co-dependence and risk infantilizing your partner, by becoming her father. That is a relationship structure for which she will surely react to sooner or later, and for a woman with low self-esteem, there is no better elixir than gratification and validation that comes with spreading herself wantonly for new cock who ‘gets her’. It is far better to act as a friend, guide and part of her support network, to coach and mentor her through the issue at hand, than to provide for her directly.

 The emotional tight rope

Emotional support are the skills used to make your partner feel valued, safe and understood. They are the tools utilized to help lift someone to higher ground, so they can see their way through their difficulties themselves and develop a healthy earned sense of self-esteem, self-respect and self-concept of themselves, by becoming self-competent. Successfully providing emotional support is determining the right chemistry, of balancing too little emotional attachment with too much involvement. It’s about finding the sweet spot that your partner needs for connectedness and interdependence.