When someone we love gives us feedback, how we respond matters significantly in moving the relationship forward or moving it further apart. When the feedback is complimentary, all is well! Who doesn’t love to hear all the ways in which they are succeeding? However, when the feedback is interpreted as negative, the outcome can be much different. This is the situation I would like to focus on in particular since it is much harder for couples.
To start, I want you to begin shifting your mindset away from “good and bad” or “positive and negative.” ALL feedback is good! It is communication and it allows you to better understand your loved one. All feedback provides us with much needed information for better attending to the needs of our partners.
Begin by first considering how it must feel for your partner to share difficult feedback. That is not easy as well! It’s incredibly hard to advocate for your needs within your relationship. Telling your partner what you would like to see change is hard and leaves that person in a place of vulnerability. Be mindful of the difficult space they are in and approach with kindness. Be mindful of the fact that they are engaging in this conversation because they care and they are invested in the relationship. Be supportive of the fact that your loved one is advocating for their needs and moving them towards feeling happier in the relationship, something I am sure you also want.
Next, attend to your own emotional response. It is perfectly valid to feel surprised, hurt, or even defensive with regards to feedback. Take time to acknowledge how you are feeling in the moment. Respect your own emotional response while also respecting your partner’s position. This might include saying something like:
“I am feeling somewhat surprised and hurt by this. However, let me try and see where you are coming from. I appreciate you sharing with me. I know that must have been hard to say.”
This statement is a helpful example because it is finding the delicate balance of sharing your own emotions while also attending to the emotions of your partner. Once it is stated, you are then able to go back and remind yourself that all feedback is information and helpful in bringing you and your partner closer together.
When you look at the feedback from a somewhat distant, curious, and informative perspective, it is easier to engage in resolution and move away from the defensiveness and hurt you may be feeling. Keep in mind, this is hard and it does take practice. Emotions are powerful and to hit pause and step in to a solution-focused mindset where you respect your partners needs can take time.
Consider the last time your partner gave your feedback. How did you feel? Could you have responded differently?