Highly empathic people feel the effects of giving negative feedback more than most

#1 Having better performance conversations series

Let’s be honest, we don’t tend to rush out looking for opportunities to give people feedback about what they are not doing well. Unless we are coaching a high-performance athlete, or a teacher who wants students to see where they can improve, or a book Editor (I know that one well). It’s not something most people tend to enjoy. 

Then add the complexity of giving feedback if you are someone who experiences emotions at a deeper level. Namely an ‘empath’ or as author Elaine Aron phrases them as a ‘highly sensitive person’ (HSP). Then the experience of giving feedback is even more challenging. If you are an HSP it means you have a heightened sense of stimuli around you. Both in yourself and others. It’s not just about emotions, it’s sound, touch, and smell. All the senses are heightened. It can feel really hard to experience life at a greater depth than most and can also be a real superpower. Because you can experience things more acutely than most and your ability to read a room can be an incredible tool. 

If you want to test whether you might fall into this category you can take Elaine’s online test. Her book; The Highly Sensitive Person is also fabulous. She says there are about 1 in 5 humans who fall into this space. 

Why am I telling you this? Because there is research from Lauren S Simon et al, that shows when an HSP gives feedback about a gap, something that could be better, that they can walk away with the same level of disappointment, hurt or shock that the person receiving it has experienced. That’s why it can feel really hard. So you are not just experiencing your own fears and emotions giving it. You are taking on board the other person’s reactions too. 

If this feels like it might be you, and even if it doesn’t, then one thing that can be helpful, so it doesn’t become even harder is to be conscious that you don’t carry with you any false assumptions of where the conversation may or may not end up. 

There is a concept called ‘rucking’ that is done for strength training. It’s where you load up a backpack, or rucksack, with weights and then hike or walk for a prolonged period. It’s about building your muscles and your resistance. Both physically and psychologically. Your muscles have to work harder to propel your body forward. 

It sounds horrendous to me. Many of us do this with the stories and assumptions we tell ourselves about how a conversation might play out. We load up our emotional backpack with a heaviness that is not necessary. And it’s doing the opposite of making us more resilient and strong. It’s tiring us out.

So start there. Bring less to the conversation so you can deal with only what comes at you. Not the stuff you have created in your mind.

If you want to hear more about giving and receiving feedback you should come to my next online event Embedding a Feedback Culture. Check it out here.