Conflict Remedy Blog by Lorraine Segal
Receiving feedback without feeling defensive or triggered is a challenge.
I work with my students and clients to increase their resiliency and ability to get the best from feedback of supervisors and co-workers, because it is an important aspect of conflict management and clear communication skills.
After reading the wonderful book, White Fragility, in which Robin deAngelo discusses at length and with tremendous clarity why many white people react defensively to any conversation around race and racism, I realized it is a perfect (extreme) example of how people react in general to any feedback they perceive as negative.
So many of us grow up being taught to be ashamed of any mistakes we make or misunderstandings we have. I know I believed any mistakes meant I was bad and wrong, permanently.
Without training and help, we can’t listen for what is true in the feedback or what might be helpful to us; we are too busy protecting ourselves from harm. So, any extreme negative feedback hits a hot button, (emotional trigger) and we lash out and react to defend ourselves and our very lives.
And being accused of racism feels like the worst negative feedback of all. According to deAngelo, we are socialized to believe that if we do or say something even a little bit racist, we are being told we are irredeemably evil people.
We equate racism with lynching, with horrible violence, and deny that we probably demonstrate unconscious bias and micro-aggressions. We can’t distinguish between our personal responsibility and the bedrock of racism and white supremacy our society is built on.
When we are busy defending ourselves, around racism or any shortcomings, we are closed to growing and changing, to being better people, better workers, better managers. So, how can we be open to change?
Here are some steps that have helped me and my clients:
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