In his groundbreaking book of essays “Does it Matter: Essays on Man’s Relation to Materiality,” the philosopher Alan Watts wrote that “a living body is not a fixed thing but a flowing event, like a flame or a whirlpool: the shape alone is stable, for the substance is a stream of energy going in at one end and out at the other” (1971). That seems like so much common sense, most people take it for granted and move on with more important issues like paying bills, buying groceries, taking the kids to soccer practice and eating sleeping pills at night because they can’t sleep. If someone has garbage going into them whether food and drink or feelings and energy, then that same garbage transforms them physically, mentally and emotionally, so they become the garbage. Here are some tips on how to make your relationship better by using constructive feedback examples.
Using NAME Statements to Achieve Positive Communication
Positive communication is a key to achieving mental wellbeing. If your relationships are often characterized by arguments and animosity, then negative self-talk is perpetuated. According to The Positive Way, a NAME statement means:
- N - name the behavior that is causing the problem
- A - announce when and what the behavior are and when it occurred
- M - mention your feelings and thoughts on the problem
- E - explain your personal reaction, especially feelings with an “I” statement (Positive Way, 2011).
For example, if there is a continuing problem with a friend or partner where they continually interrupt you while talking, then instead of getting angry and saying “please shut up,” you would instead say “often when I am talking you interrupt me and don’t let me finish, that really makes me angry and feel like you don’t value my opinion.” It is necessary to clarify the problem, when it happens and your feelings.
NAME statements can also beneficial for purely positive feedback. If your more opinionated partner asked you what you would like to do for dinner last Friday night and where you wanted to go you could say, “it really made me happy when you asked my opinion for dinner, I know you prefer to make the choice and I’m generally more laid back, but it pleased me that you are conscious of my desires as well, thank you.” Adding NAME statements into your daily communication will bring about immediate positive changes.
Steps for Giving Constructive Feedback
Living a more positive life isn’t something that happens automatically with a wave of the Fairy Godmother’s magic wand, it takes attention to detail and perseverance. If you have some a friend who often deals with depression, draws you into their circle of negativity and leaves you feeling spent after visiting them, there are two things you can do: remove them from your life which certainly won’t help them or focus on helping them (Pratt, 2011). It may be necessary to get them professional help and the same may be true of a troubled marriage, continual arguments with your children or a bad work space. But, in lieu of spending money on professional counseling, increasing positive feedback may lessen the burden and move your interactions in a constructive direction.
- Keep Emotions Under Control: When dealing with negative situations where arguments may arise or feelings can be hurt, then you need to try and dampen your emotional reaction. In an argument with your teenage daughter about staying out too late, she is the one feeling defensive and more likely to lose control of her emotions. Take a few deep breaths, calm your racing heartbeat and speak slowly. If you resonate calmness it helps to diffuse the situation.
- Check Understanding: One of the more problematic issues in a tense situation is both people talking at the same time and neither listening to what the other says. Lack of communication is often due to a lack of listening rather than not speaking. If your partner always talks when you are trying to watch a movie or makes criticizing comments, then talk to them about it. But, make sure you ask them “do you understand what is it I am trying to tell you?” Have them repeat it back in their own words.
- Participate in Active Communication: A key factor to positive feedback and clear communication is active communication, if the discussion is one-sided then the other party will feel left out and nothing will be achieved. Ask for opinions and feelings from the other person and make sure you understand what they are communicating. If they seem to be forcing negative feedback on you, don’t fall prey to a similar reaction, but instead keep all your communication positive.
- Reaffirm Faith: The final component and the one that complete the circle of positive feedback is the constant reaffirmation of faith in the individuals you are communication with. Always end things on a positive note; statements like “well, whatever you say, I just don’t agree,” will not help the situation. Positive reaffirmation in the situation and the person in question, even if nothing concrete was accomplished, creates an encouraging atmosphere for further interactions later (Orman, 2002).
In his essay on “Compassion and the Individual,” Tenzin Gyatso, The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, says of happiness that “it is possible to divide every kind of happiness and suffering into two main categories: mental and physical. Of the two, it is the mind that exerts the greatest influence on most of us” (Dalai Lama). Thus, while our modern lives may often be too filled with unhealthy fast food, side effects of too many prescription drugs, issues with alcohol and other substances, it is our minds that most often cause us distress - mental stress causes emotional stress causes physical stress in a negative symbiotic cycle of increasing degradation. Positive reinforcement in relationships thus helps to build a more positive lifestyle, make your relationship better and turns the “garbage in, garbage out” perpetuation constructive feedback into a constructive and encouraging regime.
Gyatso, T. (n.d.). Compassion and the Individual. Dalai Lama.Retrieved from dalailama.com/messages/compassion
Positive Way (2011). Expressing and Owning Feelings. Retrieved from positive-way.com/expressi.htm
Pratt, C. (2011). How to Deal With Negative People. Retrieved from Life with Confidence.life-with-confidence.com/how-to-deal-with-negative-people.html
Orman, M.C. (2002). Day 10: Stress in Relationships. Stress Cure. Retrieved from stresscure.com/14dycure/chapt10.html
Watts, A. (1971). Does it Matter? Essays on Man’s Relation to Materiality (3rd Ed.). New York, NY: Vintage Books.