Recently I was given the valuable opportunity to practice what I preach! A client was not entirely happy with the work we’d done together and gave me very frank, specific and detailed feedback about it. While grateful for their honesty, I was somewhat taken by surprise. This conversation was an excellent chance to review these techniques that I share in workshops and mediations:

  • Breathe. If you find yourself tensing up or getting defensive, consciously relax your muscles and breathe deeply.
  • Assume good intentions. Even if the feedback seems critical or poorly delivered, assume that the person is sharing it with you because they value and want to improve the relationship between you.
  • Listen. Let go of trying to compose a response. Try to hear the underlying message.
  • Reflect back what you heard, asking any questions necessary to clarify the other person’s concerns.
  • Thank the person for sharing. It can be very hard to initiate such a conversation – acknowledge that!
  • Realize that you may need to go away and process what you’ve heard before you can respond in a useful way.

In this instance, the concerns raised did not seem to fit with previous feedback I’d received about similar work. After the conversation, I was able to contemplate some possible reasons for this:

  • Perhaps other clients have had similar concerns but did not feel comfortable sharing them with me. I could check this out by contacting some of them and asking specific questions in an open and receptive way.
  • Perhaps I was having an “off” day and my performance was not up to its usual quality. I will need to think through the day and evaluate this further.
  • Perhaps this client and I are not a good “fit” for each other; my strengths, weaknesses, teaching style, etc. may not intersect well with their learning styles and needs. Further conversations should serve to clarify if this is the case.

Too many of us, when given critical feedback, either don’t let it in at all (“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about!”) or we take it too deeply (“He’s right, I’m no good, why did I ever think I could do this?”). The dance is in hearing the other person’s experience; reflecting deeply and honestly upon our own experience; and balancing these multiple truths.