2023 feedback review: my results (part 1)

Feb 21, 2023 2:49 pm


This is Connor. He hated me in middle school, is the reason I run my own business, and has been one of my best friends for 15 years. He and his wife run a kick-ass climate tech studio and startup.

Each year, we do a feedback review where we answer deep and critical questions about one another. (Here were my biggest takeaways from last year’s review.)

2023’s questions:

  1. What’s something you haven’t told me for fear it might hurt my feelings?
  2. How do you wish I was more like you?
  3. How do you wish you were more like me?
  4. What impresses you most about me?
  5. What would you say at my funeral/eulogy?

No feedback is complete without an action item. So for each critique, I came up with ways to change. Here’s how it went…

Biggest criticisms:

1) I’m ugly.

Just kidding.

*1) I send people sociopolitical links they’re not interested in.

I don’t feel identified with the conservative label. But most of my close friends are more liberal or left-leaning than I am, so it makes me feel like I stick out a bit.

And since I rarely seek confrontation and am rather agreeable, I tend to avoid potentially tense or divisive discussions.

But sometimes I let my opinions peep through. And when Connor brought up the fact that I have sent some podcasts and clips or made some brief comments, I realized something about myself.

I have a habit of sending people links. I tell myself and the person I’m sending them to, “Hey, I think you’d find this fascinating.”

But I discovered what I really meant was, “Hey, here’s something I wish you understood and internalized. Hope ya like it!”

It’s been my cowardly way of indirectly debating and making arguments. As though watching a 40-second YouTube short and avoiding any sort of long-form conversation would bring insight to my friends.

Worse yet, I’ve been coming to conclusions about what I think my friends’ opinions are. I thought, I have liberal friends. They must be blue-haired, mega-woke granola people.

But I have zero evidence to even begin to back that claim.

Change #1:

I called a few friends to apologize for hiding behind links, promising that if I had anything to say I’d just say it myself. I don’t have to have someone else make an argument for me in a podcast or YouTube video. I can construct my own opinions.

Furthermore, I realized I crave two contradictory things at the same time:

  1. I want to have open and honest discussions and debates with my close friends about divisive topics.
  2. I absolutely don’t want to have those conversations. I just want to chill with my friends.

One friend made a great suggestion while I was on my apology phone tour. I can pursue conversations like those by simply stating, “Here’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. Can I get your thoughts on it? I’d love to workshop it because it’s something I feel super passionate about.”

Respectful. Light. Welcoming…Instead of, Hey watch this clip, it’ll expose how stupid you are! Lmk what ya think. 😉

2) I hold people to the high standards I hold myself to.

In terms of honesty, communication, and discourse. And well, they don’t feel like high standards to me. They just feel normal and reasonable.

Firstly, I refuse to lie in any way.

I was basically a compulsive liar when I was younger—lying even about small and insignificant things—and it created a world of chaos for me. I had to remember what I said to each person in my life. And worse yet, when you lie all the time, you slowly begin to believe the lies you tell others, building a false world for yourself.

On top of that, one of my most significant life principles is open and candid truth-telling.

I will always tell my friends, family, and colleagues what is on my mind—so long as I can do so in a respectful and valuable way. I don’t just blurt out every thought that pops into my head.

I tell my close friends what they’ve done to make me feel hurt. I tell my family what they mean to me. I give brutally honest feedback to my fellow coaches (with their permission).

And I want others to do the same for me. Hence this entire feedback review.

Lastly, I try to remain kind and compassionate toward people even when they’re not in the room.

One thing I pick up on quickly is how often someone talks about others who aren’t currently present. Gossip is an enormous turnoff for me. It drains me and it makes me question how often the gossiper talks about me when I’m not around.

My goal is to praise others when they aren’t in the room. I’m not naive, but I try to remain positive and grateful basically 100% of the time.

All this is to say…I often expect these same values and practices from other people.

When one of my friends suggests I lie, I’m shocked. When I learn someone feels a certain way about me, I get frustrated that they haven’t brought it up to me yet. When I hear someone gossip, I think less about them.

I’m proud of these values but I don’t want them to make me feel disgusted toward the people in my life.

Change #2:

First, be mindful. Remind myself that my principles are mine and I’m not in charge of other people.

Second, continue being the change I want to see in the world. When someone lies, ghosts, or gossips…don’t judge or shame them in any way. But instead advertise what you would prefer: uncomfortable honesty, candid conversation, and praise. Lead by example.

In other words: make these boring and wholesome alternatives sexy again. It won’t guarantee people will become more like you, but it will continue to create a more positive atmosphere.

3) I don’t collaborate enough in disagreements.

This last one combines #1 and #2.

Not completely understanding the other person’s beliefs + feeling my way of thinking is supreme = subpar debates and discussions.

I love diving into potentially divisive and radioactive topics: race, gender ideology, sexism, etc.

But I have only been able to do so consistently with friends I already agree with. That makes me sad because I want to be able to talk about anything with anyone. It also means I stay in my bubble: not having my ideas challenged enough and not considering opposing opinions.

Part of this is due to the naturally uncomfortable nature of having these conversations…especially with friends. If you’re at a dinner party with four buddies, would you rather play CatchPhrase or debate police brutality in America?

But a huge component is my own lack of collaboration and questioning. I want to dive headfirst into my thoughts and point out other people’s errors. Folks love that.

When someone says something I disagree with, my internal emotional reaction is, That’s ridiculous, let me set this person straight. Turns out no one is interested in being “set straight” or educated.

People just want to be heard and understood. So…

Change #3:

First and foremost, I need to make it clear to people that they are completely free to share their thoughts and opinions without my judgment or condescension.

I can ask way more questions before I share any of my own ideas or counterarguments. Above all, I can find common ground.

Where do we completely agree? Where do our perspectives divert? What values and desires do we share?

I need to address these things before turning into a professor. No one wants to be lectured at. No one wants to attend a TED Talk against their will.

Finally, I have to get better at steelmanning.

Strawman fallacy: attacking a weak or incorrect version of someone’s argument, often straying from the actual points the person is making.


  • “You care about climate change? So you just want us to stop driving cars and having babies?”
  • “You’re pro-law enforcement? So you think cops should just be able to do and say what they want to innocent civilians?”
  • “You think pornography is bad for society? So you think we should shame women in the industry?”

Steelman argument: debating with the best possible interpretation of someone’s argument.

When you steelman someone, you articulate their opinions to the point that they agree with you. “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.”

It’s hard to do this, especially when we vehemently disagree with someone. But it’s the best way to have a fruitful conversation.

I’m going to practice doing this. I can’t unload my thoughts before steelmanning the person I’m speaking with.

It took a few days for these criticisms to really sink in and for my defensive nature to fade. But I’m excited to put these changes into practice.

Later this week, I’ll share the positive feedback I received in part 2.

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