“I just want to help them see their impact!”
Have you ever said those words? Perhaps in your own head, maybe aloud or possibly to a friend after someone left a crappy impact on you?
It’s a really common sentiment to end up in, especially after someone has gotten muck on us.
By muck, I mean that they left you in the impact of how they showed up. Maybe someone was having a bad day, and just happened to snap at you for asking them how their sleep was. This muck-leaving-person may have intended to leave you feeling crappy (a share the misery kind of thing), or it may have been entirely unintentional.
It doesn’t really matter — all we’re looking at here is the impact someone left you in.
When someone leaves us feeling crappy because of the way they showed up, it’s automatic to want to return the favour, usually by giving them a little taste of their own medicine. If we’re really feeling righteous we can cite the golden rule as a justification for throwing the poo back in their direction.
When you’ve got some transformational work under your belt, your ego’s hidden agenda to reciprocate the hurt becomes a little more sophisticated. Instead of simply wanting to hurt them back, we start thinking that we would like to let this person know about their impact so that they could possibly do something about it. Maybe, with our feedback, they could change for the better (since they seem unaware that they’re going around being a shithead).
There are two problems with this approach.
The first problem is that we’re often eager to jump straight to reflecting someone’s impact on us before we’ve done our own work. We want to help someone see what a shithead they’re being (that’s not how we’d word it to ourselves, but it’s generally what we’re wanting to do), because we feel how they’ve shown up is wrong.
But reflecting the way someone is showing up, when your underlying energy is that they are wrong, simply gives them something to defend against. When defensive, we aren’t open, and when we aren’t open, the feedback we receive is irrelevant.
In fact, it’s worse than irrelevant — it simply gets taken in as justification for continuing to show up the way we are.
So, if your intention really is as you say: to support this person to see the impact they may be unaware they’re having, it’s on you to do your own work to move through your hurt and your reaction to their impact, and get back to a place where you can love them exactly as they are. To see that the impact they had on you wasn’t personal, and likely wasn’t even intentional. (And even if it was intentional, that too can be forgiven.)
From this place, you’re able to offer feedback with much less attachment, and far more grace.
The second problem kind of feeds off of the first point. Offering someone feedback, when they’re not open to it, is irrelevant. For feedback to actually make a difference — for it to actually have the impact you intend — someone really has to be open to receiving what you have to say.
If we really want to support someone to see something that they otherwise might not be able to, we have to first trust them exactly where they are. Sure, you’re probably right, this person is having an impact in the world that they’re unaware of. Sure, they’re probably pushing people away and leaving those people feeling alienated. Sure, this person’s message is probably going unheard, and landing on deaf ears because of the way they’re showing up.
But if you want to support them to see things in a different light, you have to first begin by releasing your own attachment to them getting the feedback you have.
So the work at this stage, if you really want to step into it, stops being about giving feedback, and instead, becomes about truly understanding where this person is coming from, and how the choices they are making make sense.
Not makes sense like “Well, they’re dumb, so it makes sense they would do dumb things.” Makes sense the same way all of your own actions make perfect sense to you in the moment.
On the other side of this kind of work, we can arrive at grace and love, and relinquish the expectation or need for someone to show up any differently. And only from that place, will the person feel free to be as they are, and slowly open to feedback that something else may be available.
The heartbreak of transformation is that it requires you to be able to see what is possible for everyone you support, and simultaneously release your attachment to them showing up any differently than they currently are.
If you really want to support someone having a different impact, begin by finding your way back to loving them exactly as they are.