This doesn’t however make the terms any easier to digest, particularly if you don’t feel like they are appropriate to you.
Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen identified three triggers that stop us accepting and working with feedback. I share them below, and consider how we can use them to work positively with feedback on ‘white privilege’ :
1. Truth – The feedback I receive doesn’t sound or feel true
You receive the feedback ‘You have white privilege and your staff have complained about microaggressions towards them’
Your response, ‘White Privilege? I have black friends, some of whom are more financially successful than me. I treat my whole team equally at work, what are you talking about?’
When feedback doesn’t feel true, it’s so easy to dismiss it, but instead I encourage you to take the bold move to just say ‘Tell Me More’. Engage with curiosity in where the feedback is coming from, and explore your potential blind spots.
Why haven’t I been able to pronounce my colleagues name, even after working with him for 3 years now. Or what is it about my colleague that I’ve decided isn’t professional enough to take her to the next level? Or why wouldn’t I consider the coach from a different background to myself even though she had more experience than the one that I chose to work with?
2. Relationship – I don’t want to accept the feedback from this source
You receive feedback on the lack of diversity in your team and you think ‘Who are they to speak about the lack of diversity in my team? They should look in their own backyard, I don’t hear good things about their leadership style’.
Or someone you once mentored, now wants to offer you the feedback that they’ve noticed that you are more critical of those in your team who have a black, asian or minority background (BAME) and you think ‘after all I’ve done for them how could they attack me in this way.’
In order to decide whether there is some value to be taken from this feedback, it’s important to separate ‘what’ is being said from ‘who is saying it’.
If this feedback was given to me by someone who you respected and who I knew well, how would I react to it? Whatever you answer, take that action.
3. Identity – The feedback strikes at the core of who I am
I think that the hardest feedback to receive is the feedback that challenges who we believe ourselves to be. If I consider myself to be a kind, good and fair person, but am being told that I am racist, this is a bitter pill to swallow. Not only that, it makes me feel that I am a bad person, the opposite of who I intend to be. As a result, I may become down and despondent, feeling bad about myself, which isn’t helpful to anyone.
The most important thing to remember is that you are not fixed, you have the capacity to grow and learn. As you know more, you can develop the skills to become anti-racist, if that’s who choose to be. We cannot beat ourselves up for what we didn’t know yesterday, we can only seek the knowledge to be better tomorrow. When you stop learning, you stop growing.
Become more aware of the triggers that stop you learning about White Privilege. Instead of dismissing the feedback, engage with it to be the change you wish to see in the world !