Feedback Angst

Saturday 17 November, 2001

We all missed the 05.30 alarm and when I woke at 07.30 we all had to spring into action. I took only half-hearted control – I could have made Dev’s breakfast for him while he was getting ready. Because we were late, I felt a little anxious in the van on the way to clear Sunil’s garage. Robert’s assessment of events as negative – last night’s giggles, this morning’s missed alarm, him forgetting his wallet, Dev not carrying his phone – made me feel guilty (CES) for last night’s hilarity and increased my anxiety. The result was that, although I navigated as I usually do with Karaj, I annoyed Robert by giving too many directions which suggested to him that I had no faith in his ability to follow signs. He could have said something to me there and then instead of waiting until the feedback session to raise it.

Difficulties With Feedback

We arrived 15 minutes late and as it turned out there was hardly anything to move. I relaxed very quickly, knowing that having brought forward our start time we now had plenty of time to fulfil then task. We eased ourselves into the work and within five minutes I was embarking on a big learning point. Noticing that Kuldip was being hesitant I said to the men, ‘You know we’ll be having a feedback session after this so make sure you are aware of what’s going on.

Robert came back saying, ‘That was unnecessary, I don’t know why you said it’. I agreed, because it had made me feel uncomfortable in some way. I went into a short explanation, saying that I think it was because of Kuldip not getting stuck in. Kuldip challenged me saying that I had made an assumption. I agreed and shut up. For the next half and hour I bashed myself up, the echoes of which lasted for a further two hours. I had been too forceful, even arrogant.

Later in the feedback session I learnt some useful things – both Dev and Robert said that they are just learning to cope with feedback sessions and I was forcing them both into an unhappy space which they didn’t need. I appreciated this information because I have similar anxieties about feedback sessions – have I observed correctly, have I observed at all, am I aware of everything that is going on around me? – but because I have it every day with Karaj I am more used to them that the other men. Kuldip’s thoughts at my comment were, ‘Well if that’s the case I’m leaving straight afterwards, I’m not going to hang around for the feedback session’.

So for two hours I worked through the issue. There was no use in raising it further with the men. The damage had been done, I would have made things worse had I pursued it, and besides, I had all the information I needed to reach my own conclusions. I realised that my comment had been directed at me. I was talking to myself, and because I addressed the group instead, it was unnatural and it got to all three of them.

Useful feedback from Robert was that for two minutes after I said what I said, he was annoyed with me and then he forgot it. Had I taken it further and tried to work through my issue with the men, it would have re-opened the pain he felt and would definitely have inflamed the situation. I was right to keep my mouth shut. Moreover, I was able to work it out for myself.

Gratitude

For the rest of the morning we worked smoothly and effectively, enjoying being in each other’s company. I fed back to the men Marian’s enthusiasm and deep gratitude to us, which the men appreciated because it softened the animosity they felt (particularly Robert) towards a woman who had hurt our friend. I had none of this animosity. I’d experienced it at the beginning of the divorce proceedings but I have learnt from Karaj’s approach that both people must be treated as individuals in their own right – my emotions, loyalty or bias are not important. So I was a useful interface between Marian and the group and it made me proud of the group to see Marian’s delight in our presence and our efforts.

Respect Your Elders

Leon and his son arrived and I engaged them in conversation a couple of times, welcoming them into the environment. Robert made an important contribution, explaining to Leon exactly what the situation was, what we had done, and what needed to be done. I appreciated that, and it gave me a hint to another important learning point which I would realise for myself at the end of our feedback session back at Sunil’s flat – I could and should have made full use of Robert’s abilities. I did not. I was so focused and preoccupied with taking responsibility myself and trying to organise and lead that I did not empower my men.

Getting Robert to take charge of the work and organise everything would not have lessened my leadership or control or responsibility. On the contrary, it would have enhanced all of those qualities. When I talked to Robert about this he realised what had been bothering him at times throughout the morning – I had not treated him like an elder. A big learning point for me which has strengthened my relationship with Robert.

Feedback Session

We emptied the garage and had no problem with the storage. Robert was very positive it all saying, with confidence, that we could get everything into one container. That was all I needed to hear and we did it. We returned to Sunil’s flat, sat together and had a comprehensive feedback session. I asked Kuldip to go first and it was clear from Robert’s fidgety, disgruntled behaviour and body language, that he was on edge because of Kuldip. This is a reflection of the nature of Kuldip’s feedback which is plainly different to ours. It is disconnected, lacks substance and there is too much irrelevant detail. I felt uncomfortable and struggled to give him the effective feedback which the rest of us give each other.

Dev had been slow to start today and told us that from the moment he woke up he was anxious about being in the women’s group this evening (we spent a couple of hours with the women’s group before going dancing). However, he did not communicate this to us until we returned to Sunil’s flat this afternoon. Robert asked for feedback on his own bouts of humour and frivolity. It was important to him to hear what we said and he relished the feedback, taking from it that he is sometimes inappropriate and sometimes plays the fool.

Kuldip left after the feedback and the rest of us rested for a couple of hours before returning the van, and driving, via my house, to join the women’s group. We talked with each other about our anxieties – it is never nice to be shown up by women for the people we are, but we also know that it is a privilege to have opportunities to interact with women. We always learn from it, the women add an extra dimension to any session and it always works out. I was looking forward to it because my exposure to women or any people in general is minimal, but Dev could not quite convince himself that he would be okay.

We drove with no problem into the centre of town to drop off the van. Robert’s driving was faultless all weekend and having learned from his feedback, I gave him minimal directions. On the way, I considered not going home to pick up clean clothes, but Robert insisted, saying that I often do not take good enough care of myself and that he wants me to. I appreciated his support.

Seeing the Manipulation & Feeling the Support

We only sat in the women’s group for a couple of hours and the main topic was Earl. He is manipulating his wife and the men’s group in order to remain isolated. We were shocked by what his wife told us and she was shocked by what we told her. A sure sign that Earl is playing one off against the other.

The rest of the evening was an enlivening experience. As the four of us stood in a row near the edge of the dance floor I could literally feel the support which exists amongst us. I was feeling very energised and high – I see more people on one dance evening than I usually see in a whole month – and I was aware for the whole evening of not allowing my excitement to go too far. Robert confirmed in the car afterwards that he felt I was not over-excited at any stage.

I enjoyed watching my friends enjoying themselves and I kept control of myself in a way which was empowering. I also had good conversations with all three men. It was an exciting environment and one which I can thrive on. Tonight I thrived on it. Sunil was focused throughout the evening and planned who he intended to dance with. Dev was also on top form. He danced very well and this was noticed by the women who seek out the best dancers. Robert was being negative about his ability to dance. I told him he does not give himself the credit he deserves. He is a better dancer than he thinks. He told me at the end that he had enjoyed the dance evening for the first time in months. Wonderful.


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