The Big Performance Review Talk
It’s that time of year again: annual review season. Now we are all familiar with annual reviews at work. Those horrible conversations where you are waiting for your boss to tell you all the things that they’ve been harboring for the last 6 months. Or God forbid, a whole year.
And for the most part, people get worked up for their review. It’s a much anticipated event. Largely because it feels like your entire professional future is riding on it. Reviews determine your next promotion, your pay increase, your bonus. You wait all year to find out how you’re doing, formally. And all of this for a job; a temporary stopover in a series of professional relationships. That’s a lot of stress and pressure for something you likely won’t remember in ten years.
Why Do A Relationship Review?
Not many people do annual reviews for their relationships. About 4 years ago my husband and I started having reviews for our marriage. That’s right, formal courageous conversations about how we were performing in our relationship. And not just any relationship, but in our marriage: the partnership that we are bound to til death do us part. Yes, these check ups are way more valuable, memorable, and rewarding than anything your middle manager is gonna throw at you with their 30 minutes of prep time.
And the best part is psychologists and marriage counselors agree that an annual check up of your relationship helps you nip problems in the bud, so they don’t fester. And unlike the falsehood of a work review, the likelihood of these reviews improving your marital success is quite high. Psychology Today says having these marital check ups increase the likelihood of your union making it over time. No one wants to wait til divorce court to hear what they should have done to make their partner feel more loved, supported, and whole.
What To Measure In Your Review
How do you give a review of your partner? We broke it down to 6-7 categories that really mattered in our relationship. And the key in picking those categories was finding areas where we know we could grow. For me, this was taking all the “petty” stuff we argued about, or bickered over during the year, understanding how and why those things made me feel as they did, and committing it to paper. Sample past categories included: “housewifery”, in law engagement, personal upkeep, health, communication, emotional support, passionate displays of affection (ahem), etc. And no, the categories don’t have to stay the same. We found the areas we were so focused on earlier in our relationship faded to black, as we made room for new growth areas. Humans are ever evolving beings so our relationships grow with us too.
How To Measure
Once you have the categories set, decide on the rubric or scale you are going to use for evaluating each other. We use an A through F scale and yes pluses and minuses are totally acceptable. But you could go with a numeric rating or a very poor – excellent likert. Whatever floats your boat. The key is being consistent with your scale so you can see growth over time.
With each category, write a brief synopsis on what your partner is doing that is working for you. Then articulate what’s not working for you and make a suggestion for improvement. This is the part where you tell them directly what you want. Follow that synopsis with your overall grade, and voila, category done. I also like to do a cumulative score at the end of my evaluation, but that’s just the nerd in me. My husband never does the cumulative GPA on mine, so no worries if you don’t want to go that far. This is your tool, so make it work for you.
Then we send them to each other and we wait. For 48 hours. Yes. You read it, but you don’t talk about it until the prescribed date night for the review.
Why 48 hours of silence? Because if your partner is anything like mine, the first response to critique may not be the most thought out response. And your initial reaction in reading your review may be equally turbulent. You may find that after reading, you’re bubbling up with rebuttals and explanations for your behavior. And because your partner is someone you’re comfortable with (and not your boss) it’s gonna feel OK to say all that stuff. Don’t. In those 2 days, reflect on the other person’s feelings, their perspective. Consider why your preferences are what they are and why theirs are what they are. You can take notes on the review, and start to gather ideas, but no one is getting into it til review night. Remember, if you aren’t getting what you want from them, part of it may be in how you are communicating your needs in the first place, and vice versa. Approach this conversation with an extra helping of emotional intelligence, and it will open new avenues in your partnership going forward.
reflect on the other person’s feelings, their perspective
Plan The Review Venue
Review night is special so make sure to plan ahead.
- The kids need a sitter, preferably someone who can stay with them til morning and
- Pick a decent restaurant where you’ve tried and tested the food, and the service, because you don’t need to be reviewing that place while reviewing your relationship. This night is focused on you two. The venue should be conducive to conversation. Pick someplace intimate enough so you can hear each other, speak. And when conversations run long, as they will, make sure you got your after-hours-drinks-spot lined up as well. We do it up for dinner, and then may hit up a local bar that has board games or cards we can play to wrap up and settle into enjoying each others’ company. Remember this is still a date night.
Have The Review Talk
The conversation will meander. Try to go category by category, alternating who is being reviewed, and who is responding. It’s easier this way as opposed to someone hearing all of their marks first, because if you run long (and you will), you don’t want partner two to get short changed on the feedback just because now you’re both full, and a little tipsy which B. T. dubs, drinks help. If you took notes, make sure you can pull them up on your phone or a small notepad to keep the agenda moving forward.
And make sure you’re cab money is right for the ride home.
It’s probably one of the best conversations/date nights I have all year. The best part is seeing the slope year to year, as we compare reviews over time. At work the review counts for your compensation, and in your romantic relationship, there are correlations. This review is both of you recommitting to being better at being yourselves, and better at supporting each other in ways the other person needs and is open to receive. (Ideally a good work review should also have this timbre, but I digress).
The pay off is a better partnership for the future you’re building together. One that is grounded in honest conversation, consistent feedback, accountability, and mutual respect for each others’ needs. When you do it right, your partner is the Director of your personal board of directors. Invest some time in cultivating that partnership.
Think you are up for the challenge? Talk to your partner, and put a date on the calendar. Leave your date (and your partner’s response to the suggestion) below. Worried about how to get started? Then reach out to me for a free 30 minute chat to help you prep. Happy Review Season!