So let’s say you’re talking with someone important to you. Have you ever wanted to give immediate, direct, face-to-face feedback on what you thought or felt during that time AND have them listen and acknowledge you? It would certainly feel different or even feel a little weird at first, but could ultimately strengthen your relationship and help foster a sense of compassion and understanding for each other.
Then why don’t we do this more in relationships? Because it’s scary and uncomfortable, that’s why! What do I say? How will they respond? Can I handle the feedback if it’s negative? We often fill out surveys in questionnaire format, but the person we’re critiquing isn’t sitting right there ready to see what we think. “I liked the way you made eye contact, but you blew your nose through the whole conversation.” Or, in my case, my propensity for swearing usually puts people at ease or makes them uncomfortable. Since I am not in the business of making people uncomfortable unnecessarily, this is useful information for me to know before I continue throwing around the “f” bomb.
In my work as a therapist, I teach couples how to give and receive a complaint from each other in a way that fosters a sense of acceptance and understanding between them. Essentially, how to give your partner feedback on the s*%# they do that hurts you. How do you convey “Hey, I still love you, but this doesn’t feel good to me?” I’ve got worksheets, activities, research, role plays, homework, and more that I use to help couples with this, but the most effective and difficult-to-use tool I have to teach this skill is using it with them for myself. It is my own ability to give AND receive feedback from each and every couple I see—no matter how hard it will be to hear—that shows them how important that skill is in relationships. And, because I’m not a perfect person, it can be hard to hear sometimes. (Note to current clients: Please don’t let this stop you. Keep it coming!)
There are days when getting feedback from my clients is hard, but I know it’s necessary because our relationship is important. It allows them to learn how it feels to deliver negative feedback, essentially set limit for themselves, (“Hey I like you, but when you said this, or did that, it didn’t feel good”), and have someone thoughtfully ask more questions, respect what they say, and try to make adjustments if possible.
Most therapists at the Relationship Therapy Center use this same tool. It’s called Feedback Informed Treatment (FIT for short.) The questionnaire is given on an iPad each session and discussed immediately. For us, client feedback determines how well therapy goes overall. It is our job as therapists to make sure you get out of the process what you’re looking for, and we grow based on your feedback as well. For that, we say thank you! Compassion and understanding abound!