How to Provide (and Accept) Inclusive Constructive Feedback

A friend of mine (male) works at a bar. He was recently asked to teach a new server how to use the corkscrew. After he explained to her what she needed to do, she told him he was mansplaining.

He considered trying to explain himself, but he decided against it. After all, if he pushed his point, he was mansplaining again, right? But he is also her boss. It’s his job to help her learn new things – and she had asked for help with the corkscrew.

He wanted to be inclusive. He also wanted to be constructive. How do you accept inclusive, constructive feedback? And is there one right way to provide that feedback?

I am Privileged

I am a white woman with a good job living in a liberal city. So I know have a pretty high level of privilege. Plus, I’m sheltered in some ways. To help combat that, I try to follow these rules.

  1. Civility means respect. It does not mean being polite.
  2. It is not a POC’s job to educate me. Instead, it is my job to educate myself.
  3. When someone tells me they’re angry or upset, it is better for me to listen than to defend myself.

These rules help me to learn from others. If someone says something I consider rude, I take a minute to see if they’re just frustrated with me for not knowing something that should be obvious. It’s good rule for life – not just when trying to be more inclusive.

Communication is a Two Way Street

This may sound obvious, but I only recently realized that not everyone who yells is worth being heard.

I’ve worked so hard to listen to people in spite of their tone, that I forgot: there are so many more options. For example, a person may be:

  1. Calm, well spoken, with a good point
  2. Calm, well spoken, with no point
  3. Angry, loud, with a good point
  4. Angry, loud, with no point

It’s VERY important not to lump all angry, loud people into category 4. But there are still angry, loud people who are not trying to have a conversation. They want you to know they are angry. Sometimes they want you to do something about it. Other times, if you respond with a question, they will just continue to tell you they are angry.

How Do You Provide and Accept Inclusive Constructive Feedback?

  1. If you are going to accept feedback, you have to listen
  2. If you are going to provide feedback, you don’t have to do anything
  3. But if you want to be heard, it’s a good idea to have a goal in mind
  4. Be open to questions – on both sides
  5. Avoid labels if they’re not absolutely necessary

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