A couple of days ago a delegate from a keynote talk I recently gave (see www.getartisan.co.uk) got in touch by email.
By all accounts she had loved the talk. I was pleased about this as her own training work within mediation and collaborative practice is something that I admire and respect.
But there was something else in the email.
Could she give me a “wee bit” of feedback, she asked.
How do we respond to that question?
I felt anxious, suddenly fragile. What does that mean? What did I do wrong? She didn’t like it at all.
What nonsense we tell ourselves when someone offers feedback or critique. We are like the man or woman who blows up a balloon with every good feedback comment, only to find that when we receive a single negative remark that the balloon bursts and we must start all over again.
Fortunately that is a feedback lesson I learnt a couple of years ago from a dear friend and mentor Geo Roberts. It is something I have shared with many groups, together with another excellent feedback lesson – Say thank you, whether the feedback is good or bad.
It was time for me to take my own medicine!
I emailed back and we arranged a time to Skype. We spoke a couple of hours ago as I write this.
I was no longer anxious. I had become the man or woman who piles a shovelful of sand onto this pile of great feedback and, for each negative comment, would simply take one shovelful away from it. Much better.
The feedback conversation itself was a delight – a gift even.
During my talk I named a short list of several leaders within the field I was talking about.
Unwittingly, all of them were men despite the sector being amply populated and led by brilliant female practitioners, many of whom were even n the room! The feedback was absolutely spot on and I am glad that I got to hear it.
I thanked her for it, through laughter that represented a touch of embarrassment but also delight at what had just been revealed to me.
My friend went on to say that she figured that I was a man and it was easier n the heat of the moment up there on the podium to think of men, like me, working in this field. I explained that I am sure she was probably right but that I had been blind to that. I was, and still am, very grateful to her for taking the time, reaching out and stepping into her own discomfort, to make a gift to me of this, her observation.
Feedback, even the challenges, really are gifts. Heaven forbid that we delude ourselves that we cannot improve or that we are perfect.
I am glad that I am not. I enjoy the learning and growth far too much and I am pleased to have the light shone onto those areas where I can improve.