Let me set a scene for you.
Eight people of various genders, sitting silent in a convention center on Mount Crested Butte, Colorado. Shoes are strewn on the floor, pillows are being solidly clutched, and a fact hangs heavy in the air between them: no one is perfect. Everyone has problems with those they cohabitate with, and everyone wants to say something about it. Yet those of us present acknowledge it to be no more than information. It is not right or wrong, it simply is.
This was what my group explored today, sitting in that convention center. We were challenged to present the people in our group with constructive feedback on their actions and behaviors, and to hear what everyone else had to say to us. The ground rules for our conversation were written out on a whiteboard in green and orange – no sugarcoating nor apologizing for the feedback you gave; no defending against the feedback you received, just take it or leave it; commit completely to giving and receiving feedback as openly as possible. We set ourselves up for a safe, honest conversation as much as possible, one where we could recognize how we could improve without arguments or antagonism.
The conversations we had were some of the most emotionally intense that I have ever been part of. I won’t discuss the details, but I’ve heard from everyone in my group that we’ll carry the feedback we received and the skills we spent our time developing with us for the rest of our lives. It’s a valuable lesson to learn, bringing up your discomforts to the people causing them. I’m incredibly grateful we had the chance to develop in-depth communication skills these past few weeks.
Having a conversation like this with any group is an incredibly powerful experience in non-violent communication. If you do so, make sure that it’s a safe space for everyone; make sure that everyone understands the feedback is about how someone’s behavior affects the person speaking, and not about the person themself. That knowledge will be valuable for the rest of your life. I fully recommend finding people who can help you develop a space like this, and learning how to be honest with yourself and those around you about your experiences and behaviors.