Alexis Monville and I reflect on a time I gave feedback that was not well received and what we both learned from it. Hopefully you’ll learn something too.


Today’s conversation is rebroadcast of a conversation I had with Alexis Monville on his podcast about giving feedback.

When we recorded this conversation back in January 2020, I didn’t realize I had also helped create the first chapter of a new book Alexis and Michael Doyle were writing called, I Am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge. This was also ironic since I was originally going to write it with them, but then decided not to.

Conversation Highlights

  • Changing Your Team From the Inside by Alexis Monville
  • The hidden motives in asking for feedback–what are you looking for?
    • Affirmation
    • Honest feedback about what would make something better
    • Something else
  •  The Agile Manifesto speaks to interactions between people
    • Interactions are more important than processes and tools
    • Focus on the content and less on the delivery
  • Our thoughts about an experience create the experience, not the experience it self
  • Taking responsibility for what we put out into the world and being responsible for our own reactions
  • Sometimes it’s better to be direct instead of provocative–otherwise the message risks getting lost
  • Unmet expectations and by extension unmet needs get us into trouble
    • Taking a step back to observer what is going on instead of getting hooked
    • Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenburg
  • Software engineers a have reputation for being overly direct and getting away with it
    • Does the receiver of feedback really just have to “deal with it?”
  • Can you have a real relationship with another person if it’s a one-directional “deal with it, that’s the way I am” kind of situation?
    • Can you have a good relationship where there isn’t give and take?
    • The idea of relationship as a dance between two people
  • Our previous conversation about distributed teams and the importance of creating agreements
    • Agreements are foundational to good relationships
  • Exiting the agony loop of getting an email “just right” so as not to elicit the wrong response from the other person
    • “Both And” responsibility
    • There’s a mutual responsibility In a relationship for both parties to make it work vs. it being all up to one person to do it 100% right
  • A level deeper in all of this is where we are coming from
  • John’s new insights and convictions from reading The Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute
    • Coming from a heart at war or a heart at peace
    • When we come from a heart at peace we are not focused on “winning at all costs” (war)
    • When we are at war, someone has to be “wrong” (judgement)
    • Thinking about how the software releases I managed could have been different if I had come more often from a place of peace


  • Hallon by Christian Bjoerklund
  • Cold Funk by Kevin MacLeod
  • Original photo source

All songs licensed under Creative Commons