The literacy of feedback involves an understanding of the conscious and unconscious language within exchange.
The workshops I have been running over the last year or so, whether in board rooms or stables, consistently return to one topic. That is, developing a meaningful level of self awareness. Even if not the core agenda, it so often rears its head.
Author Tasha Eurich in her book Insight talks about self awareness as THE challenge of the 21st century. This resonates deeply with me. I am committed to promoting the practical benefit of effective social intelligence. This cannot occur without clear self awareness.
So how do we facilitate this edification?
Making it personal
I grew up one of those shy children who seek to make themselves smaller. I was constantly alert to not being seen. Venturing forth from there it was rarely more adventurous than an act of wanting to please. From this foundation an intuitive awareness of the effect I had on others was essential.
In the language of the Johari window there was a strong intuitive need to reach into my unseen self. Here was a connection to the receipt of my communication, and response to it. Just as much as to my initial intention.
This was to be a very powerful tool when I properly encountered horses. From those first encounters I was often drawn to the idea of the damaged horse. Those who carried more baggage than a life of less than competent riders. These beings were ones that I was drawn to. I could not always put this into words at the time, but i knew. These were animals that I reached out to, I acknowledged. Stepping into their suffering was a way to do that for me.
In these encounters I had keep both self and horse safe. I could not instruct this. I had to create safe. Safe in context was embodied.
Asking the right question
So I developed a simple measure which I engaged throughout these encounters, this was “what did I do to make that happen?” I looked upon the horse’s behaviour as a reflection of my action. Whether that manifest in them simply turning to sniff my hand, moving their bodies closer, or right through to physically acting to defend themselves.
I learned that, in time and without pressure, pained animals would accept me when I establised a state in myself that was appropriate for them. Usually this might better be defined as sufficiently non-threatening. Importantly here I picked up the idea of “without intention”, for intention carries an unconscious communication that could push an animal away. Whether that be an energetic felt sense, or a subtle read of shift in body language. Herein is the key to the lexicon that underlies the literacy of feedback.
The learning quickly reached beyond the stable.
These lessons touch all of life
In work I generally found that I could work with most people. That similarly intuitive understanding of how people reacted to me, helped me to work with them. This enabled me to create positive and therefore effective encounters. These experiences nurtured what Patsy Rodenberg calls the “second circle" of energy, a place of balance exchange, a place of authentic and honest connection.
They also form the foundation of what I have codified within The Cycle of Somatic Presence.The Cycle of Somatic Presence. The cycle reflects the subtle dance which occurs between two beings, or beings and their environment. It creates and sustains safe, supportive and balanced interactions.
The challenge within is finding ways to develop a literacy of feedback. Without feedback our social awareness around cannot grow. We need to become fluent in the conscious interpretation of that which comes back to us.
Behaviour as communication
NLP talks about the meaning of communication being the response you get. A manageable first step is to be more curious about how your messages land, or what behaviour in others your actions illicit. Is there a concurrence between your intention the reaction.
Most importantly, what if there is not the desired alignment. Too often we then dismiss these situations as sub-optimal behaviour in the recipient, but what if it is actually their honest reaction to us?
This is what I learned from the practice. Even if a meant well, if others were challenged or threatened in the situation, then the intention was lost. There is always feedback, and the value here attaches to the learning.
So what did I learn from the horses? The personal act of wanting to help is not helping, helping is understanding what is needed, and working with that.
Our human interactions are the same. How does this person or that person need to receive the message, what language, what medium. How do I need to be, to make them most receptive. Of course as humans, we can ask each other, but how often do we then listen? Or how often do pre-existing social dynamics colour the response?
If the message does not land, do try to understand why or do we tie ourselves in knots of repitition and justification. Digging ourselves deeper.
To be open to understanding another clearly, we must let go of ourselves and agenda.
There is no one formula to developing this literacy of feedback, but we can open create a state in ourselves which might nurture it. For me this starts with curiosity and enacted through compassion.
What are yours? How does it work for you?