I received difficult feedback on last week’s blog from an unexpected source – my children. To save you the trouble of reading the previous blog, I’ll recap. I shared my journey around boundaries. Specifically, how my lack of boundaries as a young mother fostered certain behaviours in my children and even caused them anxiety about money. However, my eldest daughter cornered me with a question, “There is something I don’t understand about the blog which I’d like you to clarify. How were we selfish, disrespectful, and financially irresponsible?”
It never occurred to me that I left some readers thinking that my children remained selfish and disrespectful or that as a financial advisor I raised financially irresponsible children.
I had to listen to understand their perspective. I realised that I had hurt them by painting them in a negative light. I also wrote about them without their permission. I had to receive the feedback with humility and reassure them of my respect for them. I had to apologise.
And then I had to endure teasing for the rest of the Mother’s Day weekend. I suspect I will endure mocking for the rest of my life about that particular blog!
I need to set the record straight. When I set better boundaries, my children developed into responsible, respectful, and caring young people. When I nurtured myself, it was easier to nurture my children. When I implemented better financial discipline, it reduced my family’s anxiety about money. I wanted to stress that when mothers’ needs are met, their children will also be better off.
Although readers may have deduced that my kids had grown out of their earlier behaviour, I did not make it clear.
Feedback is rarely easy to receive. We tend to react with fight or flight, defense, or disappearance. Often, we shoot the messenger. Unless we pause our primal reaction with a rational decision to listen and reflect, we can cause more harm by our response than by the initial cause of the feedback. Receiving feedback is about understanding another’s perspective. Sometimes it is about understanding everyone else’s perspective about us.
How we choose to respond to others’ perspectives can be crucial in our relationships. It doesn’t matter how shocking, repulsive, or wrong another’s perspective may be, it can only hurt our relationships when we react without curiosity or empathy.
We can be too eager to give a retort, defense, or our own smarter perspective. This can be especially challenging for us ‘older and wiser’ ones when sharing our wisdom with others. How stifling it must be for young people around us! The insistence on that one perspective. And yes, it can work the other way round too.
Thankfully, we can do both – we can learn from others’ perspectives and receive feedback and we can share our insight and provide input. This ‘messy middle', as Brene Brown calls it, is hard to navigate. Turning feedback into a positive experience asks that we put our egos aside.
Mastering the giving and receiving of feedback is a crucial life skill. When done well, feedback can be an opportunity to learn and grow, and strengthen your relationships. My kids’ feedback opened the door to an honest discussion about my parenting journey and our mutual growth. We now have a better understanding of our past and present.
I have found Brene Brown’s work on feedback helpful. Her feedback checklist is excellent and her book Dare to Lead is essential reading for leaders including parents.
Receiving my children’s feedback wasn’t easy, but it was an opportunity and for that I am grateful. I love what it has grown.
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