Good morning, Gentle Readers
I recently fulfilled a promise by writing a post on giving feedback, which you can read here. The promise was prompted by some statements I made after the 2011 Master/slave Conference, in this post. There are related concepts to feedback which I believe bare some fleshing out, so I'm beginning that here.
The two related concepts I'm writing of are value and judgment. As they relate to sharing observations with someone - to giving feedback, value and judgment are extraordinarily powerful and rife with potential conflict.
Taking a step back, let me first declare that it is my belief that, at our core, we all share similar needs when it comes to interacting with other people. I believe we all need to have an experience of being understood, of being seen and treated as though we matter, and we need to experience a sense of same-ness. How that manifests is as diverse as the now 7 billion people on the planet, but the core of it - the meat is the same. We need to belong.
One of the ways that sameness is expressed is through values. As a whole, those of us in the BDSM community value consent, sanity, and safety. This is evidenced by the persistent use of the acronym: SSC. How this manifests is varied, of course. Some people think it's safe to do single-point neck suspensions. Others do not. Some believe that it's perfectly fine to eat the flesh of another (yes, this has happened in our community), and others find it insane. Spend a little time perusing Fetlife, and you will discover scores of debates on the nature of consent - how it's given, under what circumstances it can/should be revoked, etc...
And yet we value the ideals of Safety, Sanity and Consent.
How many times have you said the following words about another person "S/he's an asshole". If you read enough of my blogs, you will find the word asshat therein.... Or perhaps you use words like 'he's prejudiced', or 'she's lazy', or 'that idea is bullshit'...
These, my friends, are judgments. They are judgments which have roots in - you guessed it- your values..., but here's the thing. When you judge someone or something for not sharing your values, what you are doing is imposing your morals on them.
This is not compassionate - nor does it build bridges. Far from it. This kind of language separates, burns bridges, and sends the message of different-ness - not same-ness.. This language is not effective, in my experience. I work on this constantly -
YES values are important. YES it's good to be with and around people who share your values. Making someone wrong because they don't have the same values as you? That is a form of violence - even if it's spoken.
In this post, I wrote about the difference between intent-based relationships and rules-based relationships. Which relationship is right? The one that works for you, of course!
So what does this have to do with giving feedback?
In the simple formula of getting consent, sharing observational language, and letting it be? Absolutely nothing. This isn't how things happen though, is it? No. Generally we say things like "I felt like you could have done such-and-such differently". Or we say "He's a creeper". Or we say "She's insane" (about how she get attached to her tops).
We believe that "I felt you were angry" is observation, when in fact - it is not.
When I spoke at the financial services company last week, I used the example sentence of "Jon is aggressive" when asking if statements were observations or evaluations (judgments). One woman was certain that the statement is an observation.
But what, exactly, constitutes aggression? (Watch me play, and one might say that I'm being abused, but I'm not)
Observational language exists and originates from a place outside of your values - beyond judgment. In the case of the aggressive Jon, the person would have more effectively made statements like:
- I saw Jon raise his fist
- I felt Jon's breath on my face
- I heard John's voice grow louder
But what if you really want Jon to know you find him aggressive? Or if you need your partner to understand how important it is that they pay a kind of attention to you? How do you give that feedback from a place of observation?
I'll give you a hint: it has to do with your emotions.
Look for a future post on the subject of emotions as they relate to feedback, value and judgment.
Until then, please consider contemplating your own values, judgments and observations. I guarantee it will be time worth spent.