Safe Enough for Feedback

The feedback was coming from all sides—most of it negative, much of it intense. It was more than I could process. At one point I backed my chair into a small corner of the room, a sort of instinctive response to limit the impact.

That’s when I discovered the glass wall.

T-groups are famous for the feedback they provide to people. In fact they’re all about feedback: with no set agenda or purpose, participants spend several days giving one another candid input about the effectiveness—or ineffectiveness—of their behaviors.

While this kind of feedback is invaluable, it can also be difficult, even painful, to receive. It leaves us in a vulnerable position. And when it comes fast and furious, from every person in the room—as it came at me during the T-group—it can overwhelm and wound rather than help.

What I needed, as my retreat into the corner symbolized, was a safe space.

I visualized this safe space as a metaphorical glass wall between me and those who were giving the feedback. The point was not to shut them out completely—a brick wall would work for that—but rather to deflect the intensity of their input so I could look at it clearly. Behind the glass wall, I felt safe enough to consider the wisdom of their input, filter the helpful from the unhelpful, and explore how I might best apply it to create positive change in myself.

This is why, in our 12 Inclusive Behaviors, we emphasize the need to create a sense of safety for yourself and your team members. Becoming an Inclusion as the HOW® organization, like taking part in a T-group, is all about creating change—sometimes massive change—and change leaves people feeling vulnerable. In creating a sense of safety for myself via this glass wall, I was enabling myself ultimately to be more open to the change. I could actively absorb the input and improve in this important area of my life.

Any change effort demands that we be honest with ourselves. But we can only be honest with ourselves when we feel safe.  How do you gain the sense of safety you need?