How to Give Feedback Like a Buddha

How to Give Feedback Like a Buddha

Essential ways to give feedback to a friend, colleague, or family member.

The Zen Center in San Francisco offers skills-based classes in communication and personal development. I highly recommend these. 

Develop confidence through an understanding of giving and receiving feedback through a Buddhist lens.

“Learn to take the backward step that turns the light and shines it inward. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will manifest yourself” (Dogen Zenji, Fukanzazengi)

Compassion and Lovingkindness

  • Initial attitude externally & internally should be love and kindness
  • Assume that the universe is friendly and be open to positivity rather than closed to negativity

Take the Backwards Step: Know Yourself

  • Outside looking in
    • Stop being stuck within your own reality (inside observing out) and understand the greater context, the third party or divine party perspective (outside observing in). It’s much easier to see clear this way
    • So often an action happens, we react, then there’s an outcome (action → reaction → outcome)
      • However; that outcome is often not desired, it can be one of suffering, the outcome can create a divide between you and your goal
      • Why does our mind have this tendency to react in the ways that it does?
      • We need to know ourselves intimately and reflect deeply to understand how and why these tendencies work. It’s about knowing your triggers and owning your patterns. This requires a step backwards.
  • We need to break this trap that is all too easy to fall in by intervening in the moment between action and reaction by thinking about the outcome (action → outcome → reaction)
    • This way, we can tailor our reaction to best serve healthy outcomes
    • This is a frame for giving and receiving feedback. DONT BE SO QUICK TO REACT.

Key Points to Keep In Mind During the Conversation

  1. Understand Your Purpose: Appreciation, Coaching, or Evaluation
  2. Personal & Relationship Lens: Your perspective vs. what does the relationship need
  3. Curiosity and Understanding:  Openness to your partner, Intention, What’s Missing?
  4. Know Your Triggers: Truth (Is it True?) Relationship (existing issues), Identity (Is your identity at risk?)
  5. Know Your Stress Response: Flight, Fight, Freeze

Integrating the Four Noble Truths into Feedback (both receiving and giving)

  • The Noble truths: 
    • Suffering exists
    • The cause of suffering is an attachment
    • You can put a close to this cycle, your relationship with suffering can transform
    • The end to suffering is the eightfold noble path
      • Right MINDFULNESS
        • Triggered by what? 
          • Why is it triggering? (truth, relationship, identity)
      • RiGHT VIEW
        • What drives us to give feedback 
          • Reflective of ourselves or of something else?
        • Suspend judgment. Remember that an individuals’ feedback is just their perspective
          • Be curious about their perspective.. “How can i grow?”
      • RIGHT THOUGHT
        • The feedback is not binding, ultimately I am in control of my action. It’s not about he/she/them, it’s about me.
      • RIGHT SPEECH/Language:  
        • If violent means acting in ways that result in hurt or harm, then how much of how we communicate (judging, bias, blaming, criticizing) is violent? A LOT
        • Managing communication serves us to live with choice and connection
      • RIGHT ACTION
        • Compare actions to your values… are they aligned? If not, we need to pause and adjust the action to be reflective. This takes effort
      • RIGHT EFFORT (the mind is not passive)
        • Transforming the mind/healing the mind (unlike the body) is not passive. It’s active and requires tenacity in effort. To do this, one must remain concentrated.
      • RIGHT CONCENTRATION
        • Apply yourself to the moment. Don’t lapse in this process, hold concentration sustainably.
      • RIGHT LIVELIHOOD
        • Integrate all this into your practice, whatever your practice is, in this case, feedback

Recommended Books:
Difficult Conversations

Thanks for the Feedback

Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching

Non Violent Communication

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