It’s 5pm on Friday afternoon. My inbox has 50 unanswered messages, I have a proposal to complete before the “end of day” (luckily the client is on the West coast), I’m typing up notes from the hour and half client call I just had so I don’t forget what we agreed to do, and I still need to mail out a check for my quarterly taxes. My guilt is starting to build as I think about the Shabbat dinner that isn’t getting made (Shabbat dinner is the only family tradition we honor each week) and figuring out how all of this is going to get done in time to make it to my older son Jack’s basketball game by 7pm.
Then I hear Jack say, “Mom, can you help me swap out the laundry?” “Right now?” I think to myself. “Yah, in a minute,” I respond and begin thinking about how long the clothes have been sitting idle in the washer. I know he’s asking me to help him not because he doesn’t know how to do the laundry but because he’s being considerate. After learning that not all clothes go into the dryer, he’s asking me to help him sort the clothes so he doesn’t shrink anything by accident. Two minutes pass and he asks again, “Mom, do you think you can help me with the laundry?” To which I immediately snap back with, “I heard you the first time. Don’t keep asking me. That’s not going to help me finish up my work any faster! And, we don’t have to do the laundry right this minute!”
I finally finish up my work, take a breath, and mentally jump into the weekend. I walk into the family room where my younger son Drew (10 years old) is sitting playing cards with my husband. He looks up at me and says, “Mom, can we talk privately?” Something in his tone makes me realize “something’s up.” He pulls me aside and says, “I know you’re stressed out and you’re trying to finish up your work, but I think you overreacted when Jack asked you to help with the laundry. He was just trying to get himself ready, and now I think he’s feeling more stressed.”
Can you say role reversal?! As I’m listening to my 10-year-old give me feedback, so many thoughts are going through my mind. “Oh, this is about me, not him.” “He’s doing this really well.” “I guess some of my parenting is soaking in.” “And, he’s totally right! I was completely out of line.”
Of course I felt bad for lashing out at Jack as soon as the words left my mouth. What I was really upset about is that I didn’t manage my time well that day, and I allowed for meetings and work to interfere with my family time. I was irritated with myself and took it out on Jack.
I respond to Drew and say, “First, thank you for pulling me aside. I agree, I overacted and will apologize to Jack. I was feeling stressed out and took it out on him. And, by the way, do you realize how good you are at giving feedback? Most adults don’t know how to give feedback the way you just did with me.”
Feedback Tips from a 10-Year-Old
No matter what, giving constructive feedback is uncomfortable for the giver and the receiver. David Rock has a great approach. He says that everyone should just stop giving feedback in organizations. And then quickly adds, instead, people should learn to ask for feedback on a regular basis. From a neuroscience perspective, our brains and bodies feel less threatened after hearing feedback that was actively solicited. As a result, we’re more open to hearing feedback and more likely to make changes.
Now, we all know the reality that unless it’s part of the company culture, most people are not walking around asking for feedback. So, how do you engage in good feedback conversations that reduce the other person’s sense of fight or flight and focus on growth and development? Take a lesson from Drew! Here are a few things that he did:
Speaking of Great Conversations
In last month’s book discussion, we reviewed the book, “We Need to Talk” by Celeste Headlee. (Good timing, right?) Whether you’re conducting an interview to get information, having a performance conversation, or addressing a conflict, conversations are tricky. Here are some other great tips for effective conversations: