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Can I give you some feedback?

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An irritated face at my door

Some one came in to my office and said to me: can I give you some feedback?  Yes, of course I said.  Sit down.  Would you like a cup of tea?

My interlocutor had though, absolutely no intention of giving me feedback about anything.

Feedback is not about me

Feedback means the distance between where we are and the goal we want to achieve.  And preferably, contains information that allows us to steer towards the goal.

If my interlocutor had such information, they should not have been keeping it to themselves.  That would be poor team play indeed.  And if they really had feedback about our joint goals, why would this be cause for embarrassment?

Oh, you have a complaint?

Of course, my interlocutor really wants to make a complaint.  They feel annoyed or irritated with me about something.  And as these are rather hostile emotions, they feel embarrassed.

No one likes to feel embarrassed, so they’ve become indignant and righteous instead.

Am I feeling playful?

Now if I were in a mischievious mood, I could let them sweat.  But as I wasn’t, I thought I would let them off the hook of their own anger.  Grab a chair, have a cup of tea, and tell me all about it.

Anger is such difficult emotion

It can be so difficult to give up anger.  Anger is to do with status.  Someone has ‘dissed us’ and we want our status restored.  So often we want nothing else.  Just an apology, an acknowledgment, and a sense that we are appreciated.

But it is too embarrassing to begin the conversation – you dissed me – so we dress up our anguish in other terms.

So feedback was just a request for an apology?

Of course, sometimes there is more to someone’s complaint than anger.  And we can address whatever specific issues arise.

But most times, the redress and correction is easily done.  What’s really wanted is for status to be restored.

How was that cup of tea?  Do you feel better?

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Published in Business & Communities


  1. Love it Jo. I am inspired. Next time I hear someone talk about “Constructive Criticism” – which apparently to many people is interchangable with “feedback” – I will point them to this too.

  2. Jo Jordan Jo Jordan

    Thanks Jackie. It was quite funny when I logged in – WordPress presented me with a message Jackie Cameron Can I give you some feedback?

    My stomach felt that slight clenching and I steeled myself to my smile while my mind raced to ‘Oh no, what have I done”.


    It is such an aggressive phrase, isn’t it. At the same, a bit of kindness helps the other person get past their annoyance and builds relationships.

    Thanks for this. I’d forgotten Constructive Criticism!

  3. Hi, Jo,

    I’ve been in a “feedback” situation myself of late! Decided to fall on my sword for the greater good. I’m like you – please out with the real issue and let’s get it settled.

    – jfr

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