At some point if you interact with people who are different, you are either going to hear or say something that is inappropriate, offensive or biased. Even if we are the most self-aware and well-intentioned, it happens. We still need to address issues of race and other differences. Here are ways to give and get feedback.
Educate Don’t Annihilate. It’s more important to get results than “be right.”
You’re talking to a friend, co-worker or family member and they say something that sounds racist or offensive about a group of people.
What do you do?
1- Stop the conversation, and take a deep breath.
The reason for taking the breath is to help you to not respond emotionally. You want to sound calm and confident but not aggressive, so you are heard.
2- Ask the person what they mean and why they made that statement.
Just asking why may make a person question their thought process and rethink their statement.
3- Take another breath, step back and resist the urge to end the conversation. Explain why their words or actions were inappropriate or offensive to you. If their intent is positive but they are unaware, educate them. Calling names and attacking does nothing. It only makes people defensive.
Signpost showing directions – constructive or destructive in german language
The calmer you are, the easier it will be for the other person to hear you, and not be defensive.
Getting Feedback When You’re the Offender
How do you handle it when the situation is reversed and you’re the well-intentioned offender?
Focus on the feedback, and don’t use the other person’s emotions or how they give feedback as an excuse to not listen. The impact of what we say does not always equal our intent.
1- Take a breath before you respond. This will help prevent you from becoming defensive, or responding emotionally. It will also stop you from shutting down so you can hear the feedback.
2-If you understand why your comment was offensive, biased or inappropriate, apologize, state why you’re apologizing and move on.
3- If you’re not sure, don’t apologize right away. Ask questions to understand why your comments might be offensive. Share your intention and listen to learn.
In both of these situations neither you nor the other person has any malicious intentions. If you want advice on how to deal with other, more complex situations, contact us.
E-mail Simma@SimmaLieberman.com or call 510-697-8226