A couple of weeks back a guy knocked on my door and asked if he could have a look at some of the noxious weeds on our property. He explained that the Council had just implemented a new policy where they eradicated weeds on properties bordering native bush. He was there to do an assessment. I got quite excited. Creating a beautiful garden is my fun project and I lept at the prospect of some help transforming my jungle into an oasis. So I keenly showed him around.
It wasn’t until afterwards that I realised my naeivity. He hadn’t shown me any ID (I hadn’t asked) and, as Gareth pointed out, it could have been just as likely he was casing the place for a future robery. I’m still waiting to hear back from the council about whether he was legit.
But here’s the thing. I implicitly trust that people have the best intentions. I assume that they are looking out for my best interests and are open and honest people. Unless someone is being an obvious arsehole then, this level of trust is my first and natural response. I apply this same approach to giving and receiving feedback.
I’m naturally inclined to tell people what I think. I usually beat myself up about how to do this in the best possible way – although sometimes it still doesn’t go so well. I am that person who told her friend that her boyfriend was a douchebag and wasn’t treating her right. Unfortunately we are no longer friends but she did go on to marry someone lovely. I’d like to think I’m pretty open about receiving feedback (please tell me if I’m not), and I try my best to not talk about people behind their back without telling them personally what I think (I think I inherited that from my Aunt!).
This doesn’t make me particularly politically savvy. But I am getting better, I think, at recognising when I need to keep my mouth shut and when my values compel me to say something. I have to ask, do these people trust that I have their best interests at heart? Maybe, maybe not. Do I genuinely have their best interests at heart? Maybe, maybe not. Feedback would happen all the time if we just let it – it’s not as simple as that.
Continual feedback doesn’t happen without trust. Trust doesn’t happen without vulnerability. Vulnerability doesn’t happen without safety.
Can I trust that the feedback I give will not be used against me? That I won’t be blacklisted or shunned for saying what I think? Sometimes no. That’s a hard lesson to learn I tell you! I told this story recently. My feedback made the situation worse. It was a lesson that keeping my mouth shut, and moving on to bigger and better things, can be the best course of action.
People can be blind to other perspectives, closed, walled, invulnerable. Trust diminishes, safety evaporates, feedback dissipates.
Trust is humanly chaotic. Feedback is a degree between rawness and political manoeuvring.
But if you never speak up when behaviour clashes with your values, stand up for what you believe in, tell people what is on your mind, even if it’s not popular, then behaviour will not change. Should you override concerns about trust to get rid of noxious weeds?
Or does that mean you just get robbed?
These are my reflections on feedback for the #feedbackcarnival. You can find more information about it here.