My kids and I have a standing joke. As soon as someone says, “No offense, but…” that is pretty much a guarantee that you are about to be very offended. In the same way, when a sales person says, “trust me” twenty times in a half hour meeting, the one thing I am deeply questioning is whether I can trust them.

I know that the word “feedback” tends to trigger a similar reaction.  When someone says to me, “Could I give you some feedback about what you just did?” I may be nodding and smiling; but I am secretly stealing myself against potential criticism.  This is so sad because I know that 1) most of us really like hearing about ourselves from others and 2) delivered with insight, grace and compassion “feedback” is the breakfast of champions.

We live in a culture that promotes, change, risk-taking and feedback, but most of us like it best when other people are doing the changing, risk-taking and getting feedback!

I am wondering if it’s the words themselves. Sonia Nevis, the 84-year-old co-founder of the Gestalt International Study Center, told a group of facilitators last week that she rarely talks about “change” with clients, but instead talks to people about their “development.” Her idea is that telling someone that you support his or her “change”, is an implicit insult; i.e., you are not good enough now. It might sound like parsing words, but I see the subtle and significant difference.

So I am thinking about words, strategies and ways that I can become more effective in giving and receiving feedback. One friend told me that she doesn’t just use the word feedback when she has something difficult to say. She says, “ Can I give you some feedback?” and then proceeds to tell whomever what an excellent job they just did. Great idea!

At age 53, I know this; continual learning is the key to my thriving future. Change, risk- taking and feedback are central to this process (damn it!).  Onward!


“There is no failure, only feedback” – Robert Allen

P.S. I would love to hear your experiences with “feedback” stories and what you really think about all this?