Chapter 7. DFM – Direct Feedback Moment

Truce in Conversation or Agreed Method of Disengagement
The goal of this chapter is to create and agree to use a tool that will pause a conversation when one of us thinks we have reached a point where we cannot achieve an agreement. This is what I call a truce. Nevertheless, during the pause, we would still be engaged in our own thought process, trying to resolve the conversation/dispute or disagreement. The challenge was to come up with a tool that would replace such idioms as: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” or “Let’s agree to disagree”. A DFM or Direct Feedback Moment is just the tool to take the heat out of a dispute. It is the conscious activation of Rethink Perfect, especially when one of us feels that we are in danger of losing control of the conversation. DFM is a plan to deal with such a situation. I have created my own idioms that go more like “Let’s agree how to disagree”  or “Let’s disagree to agree”. (Which confuses everyone, even me).

Truce –noun

1. A suspension of hostilities for a specified period of time by mutual agreement of the warring parties; cease-fire; armistice.

2. An agreement or treaty establishing this.

3. A temporary respite, as from trouble or pain.

Even in war, it is understood that there are agreed protocols to suspend hostilities. I don’t believe we have something similar for conversations or discussions that have reached a dispute or disagreement and are possibly heading for an argument or a conflict of sorts. A DFM is like a spare parachute or an airbag, more to be used in case of emergencies.

Feedback is a Mirror or Reflection: As I mentioned in the previous chapter, your feedback is always worth considering, especially if I don’t like it. I don’t think it is possible for me to disagree with it, as it is only feedback on what I have said or done. It is a bit like looking in the mirror and not liking what I see. Feedback is a reflection of sorts on what I have said or done. Not liking it is one thing, smashing the mirror is another. If I don’t like what I see, I can try to change my message or change myself and lose some weight. But blaming the mirror for what it reflects is an act of madness, I think.

That reminds me of a story: apparently, a man reported on his Facebook page that when he looked in the mirror, he noticed he had lost nearly 20 kilos. Someone wrote to him asking where they could buy that mirror!

How Does a DFM Work?  A DFM is the place and time that we have planned for when we reach a point where either person wants to disengage from the discussion. It allows us to “bookmark” where we are in the discussion so that we can resume and resolve our conversation/dispute at a later time after doing some further research or rethinking. Once agreed to, it is a tool that allows us to “open up a can of worms” one at a time, confident that we have a controlled environment if any disputes arise. As much as worms or wormholes can only be opened for a moment, with great care and in a prescribed manner. They also need to be closed in an equally prescribed way. For example, “I think…..” to open, and “Your feedback is worth considering” to close the worm hole. Failure to use a DFM in the agreed to appropriate manner can result in catastrophic leakage of the can of worm holes.

More Rules of engagement for a DFM:

  • A DFM is called by the person that offered the initial  feedback
  • The person seeking the initial feedback can suggest the other to give them a DFM if they are being too indirect.
  • It can only work in a one-on-one environment
  • It can be modified and enhanced to make it easier to accept by the recipient
  • We can suggest the other to use a DFM

Feedback Loops Making Us Loopy!

So let me try running this past you.

A teacher or parent shares with their student or child what they have learned throughout their experience in life to date.

What the student or child shares back is their feedback on this information from their point of view.

If the teacher or parent then marks or evaluates the content of the student or child’s feedback, a couple of things could happen:

1. It will inhibit the student or child from disagreeing openly with the teacher or parent because the child or student is well aware of the feedback loop and that it is a no win situation.

2. You start to get a feedback loop and not a good result for either side.

So what is the solution? All the teacher or parent can do is evaluate the delivery process that the student or child employed to give their feedback on the shared knowledge. For example, if the student said, “That’s crap!” The teacher could reply, “Thanks, Jane, for your feedback. However, a couple of pointers on your delivery: 1. Are you saying that you think it is crap, or that it conforms to a universal description of crap? 2. I am sorry that I did not get a prior agreement with you regarding  how to give feedback, but I would like us to agree that we use the 3 A’s of: thanks for letting me know….(Appreciate), sorry that I don’t agree…(Apologise), but I think such-and-such about your point….(Acknowledge). 3. That I cannot very well give you feedback on your feedback of my point or we will simply enter into a feedback loop at this point. So if you did use the 3A’s and told me why you thought it was crap, I would be better off considering and appreciating it for another time and place when I have fully absorbed it and your reasoning, and avoid any feedback loops.”

This type of thinking regarding Feedback Loops could actually give us a number of things that I have been looking for:

This could be the “Truce in a Conversation” or the “Agreement Point”.

Awareness of this loop could stop the discussion/ conversation from ever getting so hot that we need a tool to “get out of the kitchen”. Arguments and fights might just be the result of these “feedback loops”, where no one is stopping for a moment to reflect upon what was said. Instead, both go loopy!

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