February 28, 2014

Working With Feedback for Personal Growth. ~ Damien Bohler

Photo: ky_olsen

Ever since I started to get a taste of the possibilities available in this life to grow I have been committed to that pursuit.

I hold a desire to reach into increasingly fuller expressions of myself while cultivating ever deepening intimacy with others around me.

Within this framework I relate to life as an opportunity for growth. There is always more about myself, others and the world to discover. I think, for as long as I am a being residing within an individualised consciousness, that this space of an ever-unfolding and evolving universe is a constant. A constant I wish to consciously engage with to the best of my abilities.

One of the toughest practices I have opened myself into in the past year has been to seek out and welcome feedback from others, particularly those who are closest to me or who I have some kind of struggle or conflict with.

Feedback is potent fuel for seeing my blind spots and areas that I need to grow into. The difficulty is that when it’s not positive feedback it can really really hurt, especially when it’s from close friends, lovers or family.

I’m not perfect. I can be abrasive, rude, arrogant, insensitive, ignorant, needy and all kinds of unpleasant to be around. I have struggled up from a place where I found it incredibly difficult to make friends and get a date to where I am now, where I have a lot of really awesome friends and manage to go on dates from time to time. I still have a lot of space to improve!

The people who get to see all of that and still show up consistently are obviously those that feel my good traits outweigh my less desirable ones. I am immensely grateful to have these people in my life.

Still, there are always going to be more elegant ways available for me to be in this world and these people are going to have some of the keys to seeing where I fall short in bringing that.

Feedback provides a spotlight for when we are stumbling along in an ineffective way of being and allows us to see that we may be struggling on a rough path when a minor course correction will have us back on an easier trail.

Welcoming feedback is a practice. There are several ways that I have found to engage in it consciously—it will find us eventually whether we seek it out or not! It’s easier and gentler to take when we are able to invite it on our own terms, rather than the oft-times heavy handed slap of the universe when we get too far off course.

To get more comfortable with feedback:

1. Cultivate a receptivity to feeling discomfort.

From my experience I have found feedback to be significantly uncomfortable. It hurts to be told that my actions and behaviours are having a negative impact on the people around me. My work with opening myself to the full spectrum of emotions has helped me to be able to hold quite high levels of feeling in my body without shutting down. This is important.

Make sure you are able to feel the more challenging spectrum of human emotion such as anger, fear, grief and shame, before requesting feedback from others. If there isn’t this foundation then it’s quite possible that an unconscious emotional reaction will ensue and things may be said that are later regretted.

2. Ask for and invite feedback when ready for it.

It’s going to be much easier to work with the potentially volatile energy inherent in feedback when we are in the right space to do so. Making sure we are centred and ready before asking is going to help the whole process considerably.

From this place of readiness we can then ask the person for specific feedback related to an event, circumstance or pattern we may be exhibiting. Ask them and then listen deeply to what they have to share. Notice any urges to defend yourself or explain and reason away anything they have offered. They are sharing what they are sharing for a reason, instead the invitation is to get extremely curious about why this is their feedback.

3. Know when it’s enough and speak it.

There is a saturation point in receiving feedback. There is a point where our system is not going to be able to take anymore and whatever comes next may be completely missed by us or even potentially cause harm to our psyche. Paying close attention to what is happening inside is going to help us be aware of when we literally can’t take anymore.

If we find it difficult to listen anymore or notice ourselves getting upset it’s a pretty good indicator we are done. Politely let the other person know that we received their feedback and it’s not possible for us to receive anymore at this moment. If there is more, we can tell them that when we are ready we will ask for it.

4. Work with it.

The point of getting feedback is to find out what about us is having a less than desirable impact on the world. For me once I receive feedback I take it away with me as that uncomfortable feeling like I have just been punched hard in the chest, and then I sit with it. I allow all the information and sensation to swirl within me letting my awareness coalesce and dance around all the ways this relates to my greater life.

Generally that is enough work for me by allowing whatever I feel and think to settle into some kind of shape inside me. This often manages to align me with a new way of being. For others this may need journalling, working with in therapy sessions, a good cry or whatever other way you might choose to respond to challenges in life.

It is easiest to ask for feedback in a safe place with adequate time to talk through as much as is necessary. Honesty and transparency are vital so let them know why and what exactly you are wanting feedback on. Make sure the other person knows that you won’t hold it against them whatever they share and if there is a possibility for hurt make even more sure they will stay with you to clean it up, if that’s important to you. Give them space to share, welcome it out and try to really make sure you are on the same page by checking in and using reflective listening.

Who to ask for feedback:

A partner, husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend or lover:

A great way to deepen a relationship is to trust our partners enough to welcome their feedback on how we are in the relationship and what they think we could improve at.


My closest friends and I have been investing in offering feedback to one another and while it has been challenging at times, our friendship has only gotten deeper and more trustworthy.

Work colleagues, bosses, employees:

A great possibility to take more responsibility in a work environment.

A date that didn’t go where you wanted it to:

A good opportunity to find out unconscious patterns in which we might be sabotaging our dating life. Be immensely respectful in these circumstances and ensure the other knows that you aren’t trying to manipulate them into seeing you again, that rather you are genuinely desiring to improve and would love their feedback.

Happy growing!


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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Ky Olsen at Flickr 

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