When we give feedback it needs to be clear and specific and it needs to be what we think based on what we have observed rather than assumptions we make based on our view of the world. Distortion occurs when we make 1+1=3 , where the evidence doesn’t point to the conclusion we’ve drawn because we’ve added in something of our own into the mix. An example of this is ‘my children are fighting to annoy me’ or ‘my boss has given me extra work because he doesn’t like me’. You can also recognise this type of distortion where you have sentences divided by the word ‘so’ or ‘therefore’ for example ‘he hasn’t told me he loves me recently so he must be having an affair’ or ‘she is playing on her computer therefore she isn’t doing her homework’. When we add our own meaning we are distorting the original meaning. It assumes we know better what the intention of the behaviour or communication was. We compare what they say and do with our own map of the world and it becomes our truth. Feedback needs to be given in the spirit of curiosity and respect for the other person’s map of the world. What else could they mean? Where someone has presented two linked statements for them there is an association or meaning in their map of the world. We need to challenge this using clean questions such as ‘in what way…’ or ‘and how is…and that’s like what?’ we’re looking to understand how 1+1=3 in their map.
When we are given feedback the same thing applies. Be curious about the content, what they have observed and question any assumptions they have made which have distorted it. This is all part of the feedback because you need to know what it was that you communicated that gave them this impression because you are responsible for your communication.
Reverse mind reading is also distortion. This is when someone says ‘if you knew me …..’ or ‘if you cared about me you would……’ or ‘you should know that………’. Here you are criticising someone for not responding in the way they should yet you have never told them what you wanted.
Another type of distortion is cause and effect when we feedback to someone that they ‘make’ you feel a certain way. This isn’t true because someone can’t make you feel something, this is your choice however what interests us is how this can be so for the other person so we’d ask ‘how exactly did I do that?’ or ‘how did x do that exactly?’
When children disobey their parents it isn’t usually because they want to ‘make ‘ them angry or upset even thought his is often what parents say. Parents often take the action of their children at a very personal level assuming they are involved when usually they are not. Next time you respond to your child feedback what you have noticed without putting any interpretation on it from your own very different map of the world. Be curious about their map as you feedback to them how you feel about what they have done or said. By taking this slightly more disassociated stance you allow for improved rapport and connection. You also model for them how to give feedback and how to receive it.
When you children are giving you feedback that seems distorted , question the assumptions using clean questions such as ‘and how exactly did I do that? or ‘and how exactly did I make you feel this?’