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Albert Kaufman
Albertideation - head thinker
Portland, Oregon

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How do we open our minds to others' feedback?

How do we all open our minds to be able to hear what is useful that is coming our way?
Written Sep 16, 2010, read 2187 times since then.
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I have been thinking about something all Summer long and thought I’d share it with you now.  I haven’t been able to fully flesh it out, but writing it down will help, I’m sure.  And, feedback and suggestions to improve the idea are welcome.  Collaborative ideation, jump right in!

We all hear various types of input about ourselves all day long and all our lives long.  It comes in various forms: criticism, complements, advice, warnings, kidding, hints, etc.  And, many of us give these out like party favors to our friends and family. I finally realized something earlier this Summer when I tried to get my Father to wear some new shoes.  I had suggested in a variety of ways that his life would improve if he changed his shoes.  I sent him websites, I told him why I like my shoes and how they make walking more enjoyable, etc.  Nada.  I have run into the same response as I’ve tried to encourage my sister to feed her kids differently – a big NO sign has been written in the sky as in “don’t tell me how to feed my kids, I got it”.  I’m dating one of the best nutritionists in the world and over the course of years I’ve learned more about food and diet than I did in my previous decades of life.  But trying to encourage my sister or father to change their behaviors has been unsuccessful to say the least.  So, I had a realization that if a person is not ready to hear feedback in some form, they’re not going to be able to take the information in – whether it’s useful or not, a big wall goes up, and the information is batted back like a baseball sent into the bleachers!

So, the idea I want to share with you is this. Rather than have this experience, how do we all open our minds to be able to hear what is useful that is coming our way?  Rather than deflect, how do we open up our receptors wider when compliments, criticism, feedback of some sort is coming towards us?  Because sometimes there are hidden gems in the dust.  Anytime someone tries to tell us something about ourselves it should be looked at as a gift.  And, interestingly, we often have trouble receiving physical gifts, as well.  My 11 years of attending Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert, and participating in the gifting economy there have taught me a lot about how to give and receive gifts with grace.  And, perhaps there’s a tie-in there, I’m not sure yet.

It seems to me that what’s key here is teaching one another and practicing how to open our minds and our awareness to the messages we’re receiving.  Opening up and letting in.  Breathing in the message, taking it in.  And before we can hear that we need to be doing something differently, or that our toenails need clipping, we have to have our minds open to feedback in general.

So, I want to work with people at this meta-level of receiving information easily.  Does this practice sound like something you’ve heard of before?  Is there already a theory out there that’s been developed that sounds like this?  I’m asking because if not it seems like something that we’d all do well to learn, and learn quickly.  And, if there is something out there like this (and thanks to Susan Cerf for sharing her version of this with me, and article which I’m encouraging her to write…) I’d love to know more about it.

Some have suggested to me that instead of saying “no” to a person’s feedback we can ask “why?”.  And, instead of me telling you that your shoes need tying, I might ask you “are your untied shoes causing a problem for you?”  And, that’s possibly a short-term solution.  But our ability to open our minds to every type of message that’s coming towards us and  figuring out what’s useful and integrating it seems key to me.

Thanks for listening, and I’m ready for your feedback.

Learn more about the author, Albert Kaufman.

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