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The 5 "P's" of Constructive Feedback

Photo Credit:  Ian Schneider
(Reprise of post originally published on 09-16-2019)
We once read an article on criticism in marriage.  The Author's bottom line was "don't do it."  Even asking: "Can I give you some feedback?" was cautioned against.  Sometimes suggestions given with the best intent with regard to work, chores, relationships with the kids can back fire.  Think back seat driving.  Experience has taught us 5 Key Points for when we just want to give each other a little suggestion.  These 5 simple points set the tone and enable us to let down our defenses and be supportive of each other when offering a little constructive feedback.  

1.  Pause and reflect:  When Tom is running late, my time can best be served by pausing rather than fuming.  If I greet him with "What took you so long?" we will be off to the races.  Changing my focus to on Tom: "Gee, I'm glad you're home!  It must've been a hard day." serves to lower Tom's defenses.  He is less likely to see me as critical or judgmental.

2.  Ask Permission:  Pausing and reflecting enables me (Tom) to figure out whose needs I am attempting to meet -- mine or Mary Frances'.  If I am truly focused on MF and helping her, I  need to ask permission: "Would you mind some feedback?"  "Is now a good time?"  If I Ass-u-me  Mary Frances wants feedback I could get my "A _ _"  tromped from the get-go.

3.  Be Positive:  I (Tom) want to be kind, compassionate and encouraging.  For example, if Mary Frances is stressed because she has taken on too much, I might offer to help.  "I know you have a lot on your plate, perhaps we can work on this together?" is much more effective than "This week is crazy!  What were you thinking?"  I turn my intent and my heart to 'helping' her.  By choosing to help avert a crisis, she knows I am on her side and a later conversation about this topic is more likely to be productive.

4.  Focus on the Present Situation:  Absolutes like: "You always" and "You never" are simply not true.  So is bring in a 3rd party like "You are just like your mother!" Both are like gasoline on a fire.  Keeping my focus on Tom's fatigue when he arrives home late keeps me from blame and criticism.  My gentleness builds trust and sets the table for a conversation on a sensitive topic like time management when we are both rested and at our best.

5.  Keep it Practical:  Keeping my (MF) focus on specific ways to move forward, like prioritizing, simplifying, and asking for help are key.  The key here is conversation  and not a lecture.   Ask questions.  How can I help?  Is there something I can do for you before I leave the office?    Recognizing our limitations and pulling to our strengths can turn criticism into collaboration.  Often the little things make the greatest difference and show we care.

These 5 tips make offering feedback more likely to be successful.  Staying silent, the old: "walk away slowly and nobody gets hurt" can lead to an inappropriate explosion.  When we see an opportunity for our spouse to grow, gentle feedback, not ignoring them may be the most loving behavior.  Skillfully navigating positive feedback as a mutual discussion elevates both of us and shows each of us that we care.  Make these 5 P-words a part of your vocabulary to build trust and confidence and limit destructive competition in your relationship.
Photo Credit:  Azrul Aziz

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