Recently I had to give critical feedback to a teammate. I understood why it was important and I knew I was the right person to do it… but it was still so uncomfortable. I’m a very senior member of the team. When will I get comfortable with someone else’s discomfort? I worry that this is a skill that’s holding me back.
A few months ago, my kid fell and scraped his knee pretty badly. It was loud, he was crying and my husband hauled him into the bathroom to try to get a look at the depth of the wound. As a mom, I wanted to freak the eff out. As an experienced human, I walked into that bathroom as if I was bored.
“Hey, what’s going on buddy?” I said.
Here were other options I was tempted to go with:
- WHAT HAPPENED?!
- Should we go to the ER?!
- How do we stop the blood?!
All of these responses would have been understandable, but here’s the thing: not one of those options would have actually helped the situation. None of them would have helped my kid.
Let’s talk about you. You’ve got a teammate whose work is impeding the team. You know it’s time for feedback to be delivered and you’re stepping up to communicate it all.
Props to you for taking action; if the situation goes unchecked, the team may get resentful. And you know what’s worse than the discomfort of receiving critical feedback? The palpable feeling that everyone wishes you were better at your job.
So I ask you: what can you do with your energy to actually help here?
Your team is lucky to have a senior member. Presumably you’ve experienced a variety of wins and frustrations throughout your career. What do you know about receiving feedback from someone who is acting nervous? From someone who is acting calm? How does the energy of the person giving feedback contribute towards the understanding and growth of the person receiving feedback?
Your question about getting comfortable with someone else’s discomfort is a really empathetic and honest concern. These are not always easy conversations to have. But there are situations where discomfort is the expected behavior. Discomfort tells us that something’s off. Discomfort directs us to what is important. If you try to fully avoid discomfort, you’re not in honest alignment with the work at hand.
I don’t know if this is holding you back in your career… but I do know that you can get more comfortable giving critical feedback. It’s possible! My advice is to lean in and practice balancing your own energy before you enter the conversation. This is a badass skill worth your practice, focus and investment.
Good luck out there,
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