We all have things that set us off when we are in a conversation. Something that takes us from doing the smooth conversation waltz and into the awkward conversation staccato. Sometimes we anticipate it before we’ve even spoken to the other person and other times it rushes like a tornado. So what’s it all about? What holds us back from keeping the conversation flowing like a well rehearsed dance?
‘Thanks for the Feedback’ written by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen tells us we have three triggers that hold us back from ‘finding the gold’ in the conversation or feedback moment. I think there are four. Four things that set us into a fight or flight stress reaction. Four things that hold us back from listening, understand and learning from the other person. Whether you believe there is something to learn or not.
- We have a ‘truth’ trigger. This is when we are set off by the content itself. We don’t like it, it might be false, we think it’s untrue, unfair, unhelpful — and as a result we feel wronged, resentful, and frustrated.
- We have a ‘relationship’ trigger. This is when we have a reaction to the person giving the feedback. It might be they don’t lead by example, they have no credibility, or that we simply don’t like or respect them. We start to focus on the audacity of this person giving us the feedback.
- We have an ‘identity’ trigger. This is when our reaction is not about the content or the person, but about how the feedback challenges our sense of self and who we are. It challenges our ego. We feel overwhelmed, threatened or ashamed. We get off-balance and question ourselves, and this is not a happy place.
- We have a ‘delivery’ trigger. This is what I see a lot of, so I have added it. The giver might lead with their opinions and feelings without providing substantial examples; or it could be that what they say is correct but it is delivered in a harsh and disrespectful way.
The reason these triggers are challenging is not that they are unreasonable or untruthful. They are not good because they stop us from owning our stuff. We find an excuse not to accept what is being shared with us. The challenge is to look to see if our triggers are present and own the fact that we are choosing not to receive the feedback well.
They are the reason why we don’t run around asking everyone for feedback. The more aware we become of our triggers the greater the benefit. But don’t forget self awareness is just the start. Doing something about them is key.