Owning Your Feedback – Whether You’re Giving or Receiving


Communication can be extremely difficult – I’ve had conversations blow up in my face when I thought I was doing the right thing. One of the reasons is a lack of clarity when people are coming to you for support – are you more looking for emotional support or how you can improve?

I think many people have a tendency towards one or the other.. my personal tendency is to move towards how someone can improve, I have other friends that are masters at naturally moving towards emotional support. But when you’re asking for support.. are YOU taking responsibility for being clear to the person you’re asking, what you’re looking for? When you’re giving support are YOU taking responsibility for asking the person you’re helping the kind of support that they’re interested in receiving?

I’ll give an example from my personal life – earlier this year my Nanny (grandmother) died, and I was given the task of creating a program for the funeral service. I put together, what I was happy with as a quite beautiful program, not perfect, but I thought really quite nice. I wanted to share it with friends on Facebook and I was quite clear internally that I was looking simply for emotional support.. I didn’t need any tips about the font, or if something was slightly off-centre, or the like.

When I made my post, I made this as abundantly clear as I could, and 95% of responses fell solidly in the realm of emotional support. 5% couldn’t help themselves (for which I don’t blame them, as I’m very guilty of this approach myself) and threw in a few tips about design, improvement, etc.
I was happy with the result, but I know if I hadn’t created that clarity and explicitly expressed my needs.. chances are that the results would have been the inverse, and I would have been left in an emotional quagmire while sorting through people’s “helpful” responses, because I didn’t clearly ask for emotional support.

Below is some text from Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone’s book “Thanks for the Feedback” that I think is helpful for anyone giving or requested feedback on making sure that it’s the right type in the moment. I hope you find it as useful as I have.

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Offering feedback is often called “holding up a mirror” to help someone see themselves. But not all such mirrors are identical in what they reflect. When it comes to feedback, there are two kinds of mirrors – Supportive Mirrors and Honest Mirrors.
A supportive mirror shows us our best self, well rested and under flattering light. We go to a supportive mirror for reassurance. Yes, how we acted in that moment was not a pretty picture, but it’s not how we really look. It’s not a big deal. It’s a bad picture of you. Throw it away. You’re a good person.
An honest mirror shows us what we look like right now, when we’re not at our best, and our bedhead is bad. It’s a true reflection of what others saw today, when we were stressed and distracted and leaking our frustration. “Yes, you really did come across that way. It’s not a good thing.”
Consciously or unconsciously, we often ask the people closet to us to be supportive mirrors. We share a piece of feedback from the guy in Purchasing, implicitly inviting our friend to be on our side: “He’s overreacting right? He just doesn’t understand I’ve got bigger things to worry about, right?” Like the Wicked Queen in Snow White, we aren’t asking the mirror for an honest assessment. We’re asking for reassurance and support.
Reassurance and support are vital, and our friends and loved ones are uniquely able to offer it. But this role can put them in a bind: People we rely on for support are often hesitant to share critical, honest feedback with us. And that feedback might be helpful: “You know what? I don’t think everything Purchasing Guy said is right, and I don’t think he said it in the best way, but I can see what he’s getting at. There are some things that you could work on.”
They are hesitant not out of cowardice, but out of confusion and concern. They want to do what’s best for us, but aren’t sure whether just being supportive is the right thing. And yet they also aren’t sure whether and how to break out of the pattern that has been set. They are right to be concerned. When someone has been a supportive mirror, we can feel betrayed and blindsided if they suddenly become an honest one.
You can use the idea of honest and supportive mirrors to clarify what you’re asking of your friends. When you hand over your freshly finished screenplay or show them around your recently renovation, give them some guidance. In what measure are you looking for honesty or needing support? Being clear will help avoid crossed wires.

Thanks for the Feedback, Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen, p94

Soaking in Vulnerability: Notes on the Intimacy Experiment

Have you ever wondered how with some people you can seem to fall into an almost instant connection with? Maybe someone you met at a party, an airport, or a bus stop. A quick camaraderie develops, an intimacy. Time might appear to fade away and you just feel connected to that person almost right away.

What’s going on here? We often feel safe to be vulnerable under new circumstances and with new people. A new environment enables us to be open to new possibilities. A stranger we meet is unlikely to encountered again.

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The Intimacy Experiment borrows from these circumstances and brings them into everyday life. It catalyzes vulnerability. It creates a framework where we can feel safe. Time begins to fly by. We can then allow ourselves begin creating a deeper connection. This may be with a lover, friend, family member, or even a stranger.

After a bit of time in the experiment, day to day concerns tend to melt away. You can soak in your connection with someone like a long luxurious bath. You’re under no obligation to stay conscious of time passing. This makes it simpler to stay connected to yourself and others. To just be present.

Dr. Arthur Aron started his research to attempt to speed up connection and vulnerability. In my experience this has been a success. The right conditions can help us create bonds with deeper meaning. This has been the experience of the participants in my workshop. Not even much difference between working with a friend, lover, or stranger.

Here’s a few comments that workshop participants have left.

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My BEDx Talk – Lost in Subspace: Using Flow as a Map to Navigate Sex-Induced Altered States

I was fortunate to be chosen to present a talk at the inaugural version of BEDx – think TEDx, but all about sex. Hope that you enjoy my talk below. If you get inspired by my challenge, please leave a comment or email me how it went – adam@sexftw.com.

How to Make a DIY Holiday That’s Easy to Swallow – Our Queering of Steak & Blowjob Day

It began, as many fulfilling celebrations between two humans do, with a question.

Would you be interested in queering steak and blowjob day with me?

Fortunately for me, the answer was an enthusiastic “fuck yes!”

A long time ago in a universe far far away (i.e. pre-internet) there was likely a straight man, a straight man frustrated that he spend a lot of time and energy on Valentine’s Day. His view seems to be that the act of giving implies that one deserves something in return in return for the gift. Not inviting this guy to my birthday party!

Out of his frustration in not getting his needs met he declared a month after Valentine’s Day, March 14th, to be “Steak and Blowjob Day” as a way for his version of what men have “always wanted” out of a romantic holiday.

There’s a lot to unpack – ie. all women want the same thing on Valentine’s Day (nope), men don’t get anything they want on Valentine’s Day (nope), that someone taking one day to go out of the way to do something special for your partner merits some kind of special reward (nope), that all the typical guy out there wants is a steak and blowjob (nope), that there’s some kind of ur-man (ie straight white dude) that precludes men of all sexualities and backgrounds (nope), and a more general notion that men are hard done by because once a year (just once a year!) there’s some kind of cultural expectation that men have to do something (nope)

To be clear – do we agree with this man’s point of view – NO.

Do we empathize with his needs and all people’s needs not being met by the way society and our cultural expectations are structured – FUCK YES.

Are we going to take his same tack to get those needs met – NAHHHHHHH.

My partner and I don’t care for Valentine’s Day, but we do love steak and blowjobs, so we wanted to see if we could queer Steak & Blowjob day in a way that enshrines the principles of equality, communication, transparency, throwing off cultural baggage, and consent culture.

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It started out with me checking in with some internal desires.

Am I instinctively averse to Valentine’s Day due to it’s cultural and gendered expectations on how romance should play out?

Fuck yeah I am.

Do I want to set aside some special focused time to be with the one I love?

Awwww yes I do.

Do I love steak and blowjobs?

Sex geek carnivore, please. (ie fuck yes!)

So how can I celebrate Steak & Blowjob Day, originally created as a response to Valentine’s Day and the cultural construction around women’s desires, that still lives in a lot of toxic stereotypes about our culture.

Well let’s find out shall we?  

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Step 1 – Check Yourself

Hmmm. I love steak. I love blowjobs. I love special time with the person I’m dating. I dislike the expectations around this holiday. Can I make this celebration a 4 way win for me, as well as a 4 way win for my partner?

A: YES.

100 XP Points.

Instead of saying “I don’t like steak and blowjobs, so I’m just going to brush this aside” say “I would really love X and XXX” – this isn’t just about a particular day, it’s about discovering what’s right for you and your partner. If you’re a queer vegan and want to do “Guacamole & Strap-On Day” then go for it! Steak & blowjobs was right for my partner and I, check-in and discover what’s right for you.

Step 2 – Check In With Your Partner

I know my partner well enough to know they love rare nearly bloody red meat, and they love both giving and receiving fantastic blowjobs. But hey, maybe the idea of Steak & Blowjob Day they find too problematic to identify with, or they simply don’t have time on that day because they’re studying.

So I checked in with my partner.

A: They’re in!

You’ve established consent, mutual buy-in and desire.

LEVEL UP.

Now what if your offer is declined? Remember that a no to an offer, isn’t really about you, it’s about your partner trying to meet a fundamental beautiful human need. A line I learned from Reid Mihalko at Sex Geek Summer Camp is to respond with “thank you for taking care of yourself.”

Remember the goal of the DIY Holiday is to celebrate a holiday with your partner that in a way where both of your needs are fundamentally met. In response to a no, go back to Step 1: Check Yourself, and you can come up with a different proposal or invite your partner to make such a proposal.

If it’s a maybe, you may want to go back to Step 1, or move on to Step 3 . Act in good faith and use your best judgement.

Step 3: Negotiation

Now that that everyone’s bought in and excited, it’s time to hash out the details. To paraphrase Al Vernacchio, we’ve decided we both want pizza, now it’s time to decide on the toppings.

I’ve been on a Basque cooking kick, so I suggest we do a traditional 3 course Basque menu for dinner, I’ll do most of the cooking, and we’ll both spend some time earlier in the day getting the correct ingredients. My partner’s down. We make a shared Google List (because we’re nerds) and divvy up the ingredients trying to even out price and where we’re located in town for convenience.

After some negotiation we come up with the following menu, at least for the culinary portion of the evening. I narrowed down to a few manageable choices, and we pick together. Our choices were..

Primo

Guisantes Con Jamón

(Peas With Serrano Ham)

Segundo

Chuletón Al Idiazabal

(Steak in an Idiazabal Cheese Sauce)

Postre

Peras Al Vino Tinto de Rioja

(Pears Poached in Red Rioja Wine)

Now as the person that’s the more cis male heteronormative person in the relationship I wanted to make sure that our queered Steak & Blowjob day just wasn’t about me, but would be hot and filled with mutual satisfaction. It would be an easy trap for me to fall into as it’s more normative for this type of celebration to cater towards my needs than that of my partner, who’s bisexual & genderqueer.

If you’re engaging in the DIY Holiday concept as opposed to a queering of an existing holiday, you should have less issue with this concept, but it can still be a good question to keep in mind – whose needs are generally culturally supported in being met in this situation?

Step 4: Implementation

This is the fun part!

We planned, both of us grabbing different ingredients for dinner, shooting texts back and forth. When dinnertime struck – cheese was melting, steaks were sizzling, and soft gazes fuelled by intense affection and red wine were exchanged.

And of course afterwards intensely gratifying blowjobs were exchanged, leaving us both in a puddle of culinary satiation mixed with a health dump of oxytocin and serotonin

So now it’s time to throw down the gauntlet, or the lace glove, whatever you prefer, and set out a CHALLENGE.

I HEREBY CHALLENGE you to create you own DIY Holiday – if you’re feeling romantic you could do it with a partner, otherwise you could arrange something with a friend, or even with yourself. It doesn’t have to be sexual although it certainly can be! 

Please post how it went in the comments and please share the article if you 

Have a holiday, make memories, and if you’re flying solo you can formalize that self-care.

Live every day like it’s a DIY Holiday.

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Your DIY Holiday Checklist:

  • Internal desire
  • Check-in / Consent
  • Fuck Yeah on All Sides (one / two / many)
  • Negotiation
  • Mutual satisfaction
  • Inclusive
  • Internally Controlled
  • Communicative
  • Invites Exploration

My Sex Geek Origin Story

When I was a boy growing up in small town British Columbia, I wanted to change my last name to..

Dragonbane.

I thought that the world around me was boring. I wanted to live large on the world, like the heroes of the Dragonlance novels I was devouring at the time. (Though I saw myself more as a wizard)

So yes, there you have it.. I’m a natural born geek. A nerd who got kicked out of the computer lab for accessing teacher’s grades and accounts. Someone who would dance around to Trooper in his Super Mario Bros pyjamas.

I was always intensely interested in people, in how they related, communicated, and engaged in the world. But I wanted to do it big, like a Jedi – deeply in tune with myself, the world around me, and occasionally use a mind trick to tell someone that these weren’t the droids they were looking for.

As a boy in 3rd grade I had a crush on a redheaded freckled girl in school. I didn’t know what to tell her – she read books on Florence Nightingale and the Holocaust, I read books on Napoleon and Rosa Parks. She’d read “The Diary of Anne Frank” while I read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” This now strikes me as an odd congruity for two kids in a small town.

I’d do my best to be charming, but I never let her know I had a crush on her. I carved our initials on the bookcase in my bedroom, then covered them in stickers so that my parents wouldn’t find out. I’d harbour boyish fantasies of me saving her from a car accident and then she’d fall in love with me, then we’d sail off into the sunset together. Needless to say, that never happened.

In high school, I didn’t date. I was the smart slightly goody two shoes student, who never swore, and actually had a panic attack about the idea of drugs in a school presentation. I remember once a girl asked me out in grade 8 science class, freezing like a deer in headlights, and then she told me she’d just asked me out as a joke. My insides were a frightened chaos of emotions, tensions, and thoughts spinning around in my mind like a cyclone. In retrospect, I was pretty disconnected with my body, always thinking there was a way to think myself out of this. I managed to go on a single date in high school, a girl walking by complemented my ass when I was working on my paper route, but I was too frightened when we went on an (incredibly long) walk around a park and set on a swingset talking for a few hours. I went home and fell into my bed, put my 5 disk cd changer on random, and went over and over in my head my fear, my not knowing how to make a move, and felt very much the fool. All Bilbo, no Gandalf.

At that point I resolved to geek out about sex. I would pull a Hermione, though she wasn’t around as a role model then, and learn every single thing I could think of about sex. I learned as an excellent student that you could get away with murder- I’d skip half my classes and spend my time reading up on sex, cyberpunk, drugs, smart drugs on the early internet. I’d take the bus downtown and hang out with Robert from Dark Horse Books, where we’d talk about everything around the sun and I’d buy the weirdest most interesting and depraved novels I could find there.. authors that were the heroes of my cyberpunk literary heroes. Burroughs. Ballard. And very importantly for me.. Kathy Acker.

I was obsessed with even then defunct Mondo 2000, the wilder weirder precursor to Wired Magazine. In my borderline obsessive online searches about anything that in briefly mentioned in the magazine I stumbled across an interview that R.U. Sirius did with Kathy Acker and came across the following exchange.. which for a 15 year old boy in 1998 was intensely mind-altering.

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Grrrls with Cocks

KA: I mean, for years we’ve had all this feminist crap of “It’s not fair” or “We want the power,” and here comes along some girls who don’t give a shit, don’t dislike men, have a good time and are for total revolution — and also, like, “We’ve got cocks too!”

I mean, packing is gonna make a major revolution! And the only thing guys have to learn is that there’s nothing wrong with dicks and cocks, but don’t think you’ve got the only cocks in the world.

RUS: I’ve always advocated replaceable parts.

KA: Girls packing are so sexy. And girls going down on girls. Every man’s gonna get off on seeing some girl packing — and every girl’s gonna get off. I saw this video that teaches girls how to ejaculate. So now we can just come on some guy’s face and say, “Eat it! Smudge it in.

 

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Italics are entirely mine. My brain and my pulse started racing at a million kilometers an hour. My synapses were firing at the speed of light. Every crackling neuron in my brain fired and said:

THAT. I WANT THAT. That’s the universe I want to live in.

And lo, a sex geek was born.

My 17 year old self in 1st year university
My 17 year old self in 1st year university

 

After that I devoured books on sexuality, sex, alternate sexuality, and two years later once I got to university I’d volunteer for groups that were advocating for sex positive education, gay rights, and broadening the discussion around sexuality. Was I skilled yet at sex? Nope. Knowledge isn’t power, it’s potential power.

Now if we put together KNOWLEDGE + SELF-AWARENESS + EXPERIENCE + SITUATIONAL AWARENESS… well now we’re not just talking power.. we’re talking super-powers.

I want to live in the X-Men Universe. I want us all to be mutants with our own unique and terrific powers. I want the world to be safe for mutants so they can express those powers how they see fit.

So reader, you’ve got this far now you have a mission.. it can be fast, it can be hard, it can be long.. as you like it.

What’s the sexual universe that you want to create for yourself? And how can I help you get there?

It’s your dream, but we’re aiming for one that respects and enables others.

Please post your thoughts in the comments! The power is yours.