Mark says: Performance reviews in the workplace are not usually something most of us look forward to. Even if it helps you improve in your job and provides valuable feedback to help you move up the corporate ladder, most of us resist the process.
Jill says: Yet, feedback is an important part of life. We need to know how our actions affect others, both positively and negatively. Kind, honest conversation fuels maturity and deepens intimacy.
Mark says: Feedback in marriage is crucial, yet few of us do it well. We tend to respond with anger, defensiveness, blame, and shame.
Jill says: Performance reviews in marriage–giving feedback, allows us to recognize what is and isn’t working. If the feedback is proactive–we evaluate our relationship a couple times a year–we can identify goals for improvement before problems become ingrained and difficult to deal with. That will be a topic for another day. Today we want to focus on feedback couples give each other naturally. And we’re going to look at it from our natural, but not-always-healthy, responses.
Mark says: There are two sides to feedback in marriage: giving feedback and receiving feedback. How we do each of these parts of assessment makes all the difference in how we interact with one another.
Jill says: While it’s important to know how to give and receive feedback, we want to look at this in a different way. We want to look at the “dysfunctional response” we default to that usually hurts our relationship rather than helps.
Mark says: When I give feedback, I have two dysfunctional tendencies and they are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. The first response is expressing frustration rather than communicating clearly. This often follows hinting which is never an effective form of communication.
The second dysfunctional tendency is to stuff and blow. I tell myself it doesn’t matter when really it does. I stuff it over and over until I blow. Raging is also never an effective form of communication.
Jill says: When I give feedback in my marriage, my dysfunctional tendency is to shoot so straight there’s very little kindness and compassion. My factual approach clashes with Mark’s emotional temperament.
Mark says: While I don’t always get it right, these days I’m learning to speak up sooner, before I’m too frustrated to communicate clearly or keep my emotions in check. I intentionally speak with a calm voice of leadership that helps me stay emotionally steady.
Jill says: And I’m learning to speak with kindness and compassion in order for the message to be received better. Sometimes I take a deep breath to slow me down and give me time to consider how I’m giving my feedback.
Mark says: Then there’s the receiving side of feedback. When receiving feedback, my dysfunctional response is one of shame. My self-talk says I’m never enough. I don’t just do bad things, I am bad, defective, and can never get it right. My second dysfunctional response is one of judgment towards Jill. I tell myself, “She is always critical. I can never make her happy.” Both of which aren’t true at all.
Jill says: When receiving feedback my dysfunctional response is blame. My self-talk is clouded in pride that says I’m not the only one with a problem here. I’m not wrong, just misunderstood.
Mark says: These days I’m working at standing firm in who I am in Christ. When the old messages start to play in my head, I replace them with the Truth I know. I recognize the ploy of the enemy to whisper those lies and I’ve stopped playing into his hand. This allows me to hear Jill’s communication and recognize the value of what she is saying. I may not agree with all of the feedback, but I’m asking God to show me what I need to own.
Jill says: These days I’m letting Mark know he’s been heard by repeating back to him what he’s said. This allows me to let his words soak in gives me a way to respond that isn’t filled with blame. I too may not agree with all the feedback, but with humility as the lens I’m seeing the feedback through, God shows me what part is true and needs to be addressed.
Mark says: Marriage is a lifetime job. It’s one we’re constantly learning about. Our spouse is usually the best person to give us feedback, but we have to make sure we’re emotionally healthy in how we both give and receive feedback. The more both of us are in tune with where we need to grow, the more we’re addressing our dysfunctional lenses, conflict is replaced by conversation and we strengthen our marriage.
What about you? What are your dysfunctional responses in giving and receiving feedback? What steps can you take in a different direction for the health of your marriage?