But on the afternoon of the second day, her world turned upside-down.
The topic was how to give feedback instead of criticism. The facilitator asked each couple to turn to one another and state the 3 things they most liked about the other person as well as the 3 things they most disliked.
Her heart was pounding as she told her boyfriend she’d go first. “What I like most about you is that you’re thoughtful, handsome, and loving.” She paused, trying to think of some gentle feedback that wouldn’t hurt his feelings.
“I wish you’d clean up after yourself more. I wish you’d be available more, rather than working so late. I also wish things were more romantic, like they used to be.”
He smiled and nodded warmly. She felt a rush of relief. This wouldn’t be so bad. “Okay, your turn,” she said.
“The three things I like most about you are that you’re beautiful, you’re warm and caring, and you make my life better.”
Karen’s heart soared. She grasped his hand tightly. “Thank you,” she whispered.
“The three things I like least about you,” he continued, “are that you’re always getting after me for things in a way that doesn’t feel respectful. You have really high standards, which are great, but it makes our life stressful in a way it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes I don’t think you really see what you’re doing. You think you’re being positive when you’re actually bringing everyone down.”
How could he say that? After that moment they’d just had?
Even worse, he was smiling, as if what he said had been kind rather than completely devastating.
Karen jerked back her hand. She scooted her chair away from him. Through the white noise ringing in her ears, she could hear him ask, “Honey, are you okay?”
But she wasn’t.
And she wasn’t sure if she’d ever be again.
In all relationships, there are some things better left unsaid.
Like what you really think of his crude best friend, or his parents’ Christmas gifts.
But giving and receiving feedback is essential to healthy relationships.
So I’m going to suggest one simple phrase for responding well.