I love the reflective space in which I find myself in the new year. Having spent my career working on an academic calendar, I especially appreciate the new year as a midpoint check-in to the school calendar. Whether or not you are the type to set resolutions, it’s almost impossible not to reflect on the year that has past and set intentions for the year to come.
Last year we tried something new. It was the first time we created family resolutions and before we set any new ones for 2018 we wanted our boys (ages 6 & 8) to reflect back on the year to see whether or not we achieved our resolutions. Since we set the resolutions as a family, we had to be open to hear each other’s feedback on how we had done. Some of the resolutions were easy & fun to talk about. Our resolution to “have more adventures” was a resounding yes! As a family, we had a ton of new experiences (paddle boarding, kayaking, hiking, a polar bear plunge), traveled to new places (Kauai, Palm Springs, Big Bear) and explored lots of new restaurants (our boys are pretty adventurous eaters). But other resolutions were a little harder to discuss. Our resolution to “be nicer to each other” involved conversations about the boys arguing, calling each other names and me yelling when the boys don’t listen (yikes!). It was a fantastic family conversation and really got me thinking about the importance of feedback related to achieving resolutions and goals. I wondered why we waited so long to give each other feedback? How could we provide each other feedback that was meaningful? And how we could be open to the feedback from each other?
As I thought about incorporating feedback into our family resolutions, it reminded me how important it is to be open to feedback in all areas of life. Below are the three simple ways I am going to help our family incorporate feedback. I’ll likely incorporate them in other areas of my life and hope you are able to as well.
Ask for Feedback: The simplest step is just to start asking for feedback. Asking signals you are open to receiving feedback and you care what others think. When asking for feedback, it can be helpful to give others a prompt. Try sharing this very simple, yet effective prompt with three starters: “I like… I wish… What if….?” While simple and easy to remember, it is also generative and gives people a framework when offering feedback. “I like…” offers an opportunity to share something positive about the person, topic or project. “I wish…” provides an opportunity to share an idea or suggestion on how to improve and “what if…?” offers an opportunity to share out-of-the-box thinking. This feedback prompt can be used in a variety of situations, try it!
Respond to Feedback: When receiving feedback, most of us naturally go into a defensive mode. Someone provides a suggestion, and we quickly want to defend why we didn’t do that, why we were going to but ran out of time or how we already do that so they must have missed it. The true art of receiving feedback is just to take it all in and respond with a simple, “Thank you.” Thanking someone for their feedback doesn’t mean you have to agree, but it does signal that you have heard it. Over time, people will see that you are receptive to their feedback and be much more likely to share their true thoughts on any given topic.
Act on the Feedback: Think of the feedback like the interactive radar speed signs you see when driving, they provide a glimpse of your driving in the moment, and based on that data you can choose to adjust the speed of your driving. If there is truth to the feedback you have received, try making adjustments as minor as changing the speed while driving by accelerating or stepping on the brake. With ongoing feedback and small adjustments over time, the changes you make can be quite dramatic.
Here’s to making feedback a more regular part of our conversations at home and at school in 2018. Cheers!