I’m inquiring into a culture of give-and-take, especially as it relates to giving and receiving feedback.
At Dorrier Underwood, we intentionally generate a culture of feedback out of a commitment to our big goals. After all, high performance teams need feedback in order to be high performance teams. Otherwise, they just make the same mistakes over and over until decline catches up with them.
And yet, it seems our instinct is always to shy away from being straight with other people. Is that why we have a hard time at family reunions? At one such occasion, my brother laughed and said, “Let’s have a contest and find out who in the room has the most unsaid things.”
This week I went to a blues concert in Durham with long-time friend, C, and, as on so many occasions, we seemed to rub each other the wrong way. When she complained about her daughter-in-law yet again, and I suggested she look at what is running her long-lasting irritation, she snapped, “Well, thank YOU for telling me what to do and how to feel.”
It makes me wonder if I have outgrown our old practice of listening and supporting without comment as we used to do week after week at our women’s group meetings in our 30s. Have I come to crave more robust conversations and dialogue? Have I outgrown our friendship?
I am living in a culture of give-and-take and coachability at work. Most of my relationships now are wide open for exploring where we are stuck and seeing what barriers we have to love, to creativity and productivity with each other, our clients, our families. It is a mountain with no top.
With my long-ago relationships, I find myself being careful and often biting back something that’s there to say. I am probably not the only one. After months of investigation into the Challenger accident, researchers concluded there was a failure on the NASA team to communicate what was not working.
Does the social agreement to keep our mouths shut with friends and family make it difficult to talk straight at work when the project demands it? When lives are not at stake, can I be generous and unattached? And simply give breathing room to whatever is there? Isn’t that what my meditation is about? To slow down and allow being? Or, as more and more is left unsaid, do friendships become empty and less vital? Do businesses become stale and less vibrant?
It looks like in the short run it is better not to talk about those things we don’t want to talk about, and in the long run, it is not better.
It is, in fact, worse: It is over.