On Giving & Receiving Feedback

I deeply apologize to all the leaders and facilitators I have ever criticized. From here on out, if I'm not actually in the arena with you (thank you, Brene Brown!), I will be in the audience cheering you on.

This comes after having now offered my first three Befriending Emotions workshops and being hyper-aware of the impact of people's feedback and suggestions, particularly at these beginning stages where I am still trying to find my voice and clarify my message, in addition to getting the nuts and bolts of facilitation down.  It is such a vulnerable thing to be out sharing things that matter to me, knowing full well that while I am doing the very best I can, there are a million things I could be doing better.

Early on, a friend gave me some detailed recommendations for how I could improve, painting a vivid picture for me of how a really great workshop could look. It was intended to be helpful, but it actually made me kind of crazy as I was designing my Befriending Anger workshop, because I had his voice in my head, critiquing and advising me on whether my ideas were matching up with what he'd described. Finally, I just had to say to that voice: "Be quiet! This is my workshop, not yours. It may not meet your standards of perfection, but at least it is going to be an authentic expression of me, and I am willing to take the consequences." And I smiled inside at the opportunity to practice befriending my anger.

Feedback is tricky for me, though, because the fact is I do want it. I do want to get better. I care whether I'm effective or not. I just don't like being tempted to put more faith in other people's answers than my own. And for someone who grew up straight-A perfectionist teacher pleaser, that is a tough habit to break.

What I've realized through this is that there is a certain kind of feedback I want, whether it's related to my workshops or any other area of life: I want to know what impact I had. What did you learn?  How did you feel? What spoke to you, and what didn't? What did you find boring, exciting, depressing, inspiring? Two weeks later, what (if anything) stuck with you? Did you try anything new that you wouldn't otherwise have tried? Were you pleased with the outcome, or not? Am I making a difference?

I understand why people don't give this kind of feedback more often. It takes courage to step out from behind the shield of objectivity and share what something was actually like! But that honesty can be an incredible gift to everyone involved.

So if you are willing to take the risk and give me feedback, thank you! I promise that I will use it wisely, no matter how inartfully it might be phrased, or how "objective" you make it sound. I will remember that it is just one person's opinion, and I will take full responsibility for whatever I choose to do (or not do) with it.

And the next time I'm asked to give feedback, and catch myself getting all wise and insightful and smug, I will pause, and breathe. And remember what it's like to be in the arena.