Giving appropriate feedback to a speaker in an ASCA meeting can be tricky. Because we try to maintain an environment of safety and respect in our meetings, we have some fairly strict guidelines about what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate feedback.
In the context of ASCA meetings, the term “safety” is interpreted fairly broadly. Speakers need to feel like they can talk about what feels true to them, and to have their feelings respected. A speaker can feel unsafe if they feel like someone else is criticizing them, defining their experiences for them, or telling them what to do.
There is often a fine line between appropriate and inappropriate feedback. Something that might feel very naturally supportive of someone is, in the context of our meeting, not considered to be appropriate feedback. The following are types of feedback that we don’t allow in our meeting:
Psychoanalyzing Giving Advice Mini-sharing
Psychoanalyzing: We as survivors have frequently been denied the opportunity to speak about our true feelings, or have been told that our feelings are “wrong” or “bad”. So it’s important to allow a speaker to state their true feelings and define their own experiences, and not have them analyzed by someone else. It’s important for them to be allowed to speak their truth as they understand it.
Giving Advice: For a similar reason, giving advice to a speaker can feel to them like someone else is telling them how to feel or what to do. Again, it is important to allow the speaker the space and the freedom to define their own experiences, and they do not always want to receive advice on how to deal with feelings and/or issues in their lives.
Mini-sharing: Using feedback to a speaker as a time to give a mini-share about yourself and your own experiences takes the focus away from the speaker and their share. While it can feel natural to share your own experiences as a means of connecting with and supporting the speaker, in our meeting the focus of feedback should be exclusively on the speaker.
Examples of appropriate and inappropriate supportive feedback.
Appropriate Supportive Feedback:
Empathize – “What you described must have been difficult and painful for you. I’m sorry you had to go through that.” Encourage – “I think you are doing a great job. Keep going” Nurture – “I think you were courageous to do what you did. “ Affirm – “I agree with you. It takes a lot of hard work to transform our lives.“ Validate – “What you said made so much sense. I can really appreciate how you are feeling.“
Inappropriate Supportive Feedback:
Do not give advice.
“Whatever you do, don’t call him.” ”You need to quit your job.” “You should…” ”You could…” ”Don’t…”
Do not try to psychoanalyze or define the person’s experiences.
“Your sister is manipulating you.” ”You seem incredibly depressed.”
Do not judge.
“You’re being unreasonable.”
Do not take the person’s inventory.
“You are being controlling.” ”You’re sabotaging yourself.”
Do not give a mini-share about yourself.
“I had a really similar relationship with my dad. He would get really angry at me and I’d get really quiet. Then he’d get even more angry at me, and start yelling. Then my mom would start to cry…”
Try to keep the above guidelines in mind when giving feedback to a speaker. If at some point one of the co-facilitators lets you know that your feedback is inappropriate, don’t take it personally – just try to learn from the experience and keep it in mind the next time you give feedback.