by Jean Loxley-Barnard
The old song "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" continues, "merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, gently down the stream." That's what we do, go merrily on and on, oblivious to mistakes we make that others see so clearly.
Too often, it is only when someone cares enough about us to give us honest feedback that our behavior comes into focus.
We probably have had some important feedback from someone who doesn't like us, but that is typically discounted immediately, rationalized as tainted. While compliments are welcomed from every source, constructive criticism, which we all need, is ingested only when we have respect for the source.
The value of a friend, relative, business associate or coworker who cares enough to give us honest feedback can't be measured. No one is perfect and every last one of us can improve, but it is hard to see where that improvement should begin without help from another's perspective.
Almost all of us notice, whether or not we do something about it, when our weight inches, or bounds, upwards. Is there anyone left who isn't talking about what they shouldn't be eating as they down another dessert? While there are some who stay the course right on past enough pounds for two people, few do so unaware. Why then do we miss the most obvious missteps in behavior?
I think our oblivion to our own mistakes is simple. Unlike excess weight, we don't have to see mistakes in every mirror. We see our behavior through our own eyes and we wouldn't make many of our blunders in the first place if our perspectives were clear.
I don't know what I don't know. It is as simple as that.
So do me a favor. If I do something you find unpleasant or hurtful, give me the benefit of the doubt and assume I am unaware, not uncaring. Tell me. Tell me lovingly, please, but tell me.
There is nothing more valuable in the quest for self-improvement than having people around us who will give us feedback. The fewer yes men and women in business, the better. The fewer the silent friends when someone needs to know a truth, the better. The fewer the family members ignoring real problems, the better.
We need to remember also that many misunderstandings arise from misinterpretations. Feedback makes room for clarity. Let's give each other the opportunities for clarity, redirection or change of behavior. Usually feedback results in a win-win. It's worth a try.
P.S. I am compelled by my conscience to acknowledge to my team at work that I have heard them say they need a paper trail from me. I commit to emailing instead of just speaking. Will that be good enough? And I've heard other excellent feedback. Stay tuned for improvement.
Jean Loxley-Barnard has been a writer all her life and studied both sociology and psychology at George Washington University where she earned a B.A. Her company, The Shopper, Inc., encompasses all the Loxley-Barnard family publications - The Shopper Magazines and Doctor to Doctor Magazine. She has been in the advertising, consulting and publishing business for 38 years.