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Giving helpful feedback

Whether you are concerned about someone you love, or if you are in a group therapy based recovery process yourself, one of the most challenging but important skills you will benefit from developing is that of being able to give people constructive feedback. 

There are many reasons to avoid telling each other the truth, it risks upsetting people, we are unlikely to be appreciated for it, and so it becomes the social norm for us to all ‘mind our own business’ and keep quiet. It then falls down to very close friends or family to give honest feedback but this is very limiting and, even close friends and family may find it easily backfires and so helpful feedback is avoided by most people. 

Brene Brown became world famous after a Ted Talk she gave describing her research into vulnerability. In her book, daring greatly, she came up with a beautiful metaphor for giving constructive feedback. She calls it “Sitting on the same side of the table.” She lists a checklist she uses to identify if she is ready to give feedback. She considers if:

  1. I’m ready to sit next to you rather than across from you.
  2. I’m willing to put the problem in front of us rather than between us (or sliding it toward you).
  3. I’m ready to listen, ask questions, and accept that I may not fully understand the issue.
  4. I want to acknowledge what you do well instead of picking apart your mistakes.
  5. I recognize your strengths and how you can use them to address your challenges.
  6. I can hold you accountable without shaming or blaming you.
  7. I’m willing to own my part.
  8. I can genuinely thank you for your efforts rather than criticize you for your failings.
  9. I can talk about how resolving these challenges will lead to your growth and opportunity.
  10. I can model the vulnerability and openness that I expect to see from you.

You can see that the feedback process can be taken from something that easily offends to something that encourages people to grow and learn, something we all want to do.

If you are negotiating your own early recovery or you are trying to help someone you love, there will be lots of times when you will want to give people helpful feedback, this checklist is a lovely way to ensure this is a constructive and kindly process.

You can see Brene Brown’s groundbreaking TED talk here: 

And see “Daring Greatly” at Amazon here:

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