“How has your experience of me been? Are there things I do that you like and want more of? Things you don’t like and want less of? I would love to hear some feedback from you.”
Have you ever asked someone this magnificent question? Has anyone asked it of you?
It’s a vital question to ask your friends, your children, your partner. It’s one of the foundations without which you won’t be able to build a close and intimate relationship with anyone. Of course, that question on it’s own is not enough. Another two things are necessary:
- The safety and security of being able to give honest feedback without fear of being attacked or punished. This one’s really crucial, and a fear that children are most likely to experience because of their dependence and vulnerability. It’s the responsibility of everyone in a relationship to create a safe environment to share their observations, feelings, needs, and requests.
- The willingness to change. There’s no point in asking this question and then ignoring the feedback the other person gives you. Anymore than there is in seeking a doctor for a medical problem and then ignoring their advice when it proves inconvenient.
And that’s another point: the other person needs to be able to feel like they can be inconvenient, and once again, that’s your responsibility. As Molyneux said, “To be yourself is in many ways to be inconvenient to others.”
You can’t hope to have a real connection with someone if they feel anxieties and fears at being themselves and have a desperate need to hide who they really are from you. Intimacy requires two people getting to know each other for who they really are, which requires each person to have a certain amount of self-knowledge too.
It’s difficult to share your real feelings and who you are if you can’t even answer that question for yourself. A lot of people are not yet intimate with their own inner world – a requirement for being intimate with someone else’s.
Asking for feedback is necessary for any kind of close and intimate relationship, but it’s especially important between parents and children. Because while friends and partners can leave, children are dependent, vulnerable, and can’t. So more than anyone, they need you to care.
Nobody can honestly claim to want to be a good parent if they’ve never asked this question of their children, and if their children don’t feel safe enough to honestly answer it.
It’s a tragic state of affairs when as Molyneux points out, restaurant joints that send out questionnaires asking for feedback seem to care more about their customers’ feelings, needs, and preferences, than parents do about their own childrens’.