Pesky Feedback... Don't swat it away, get curious


Every creature on earth has a purpose – even flies, which are annoying and can ruin a good picnic.

Feedback can be like that too.

We need feedback to grow and develop but boy-o-boy can it ruin your day!

We are getting feedback ALL THE TIME but mostly we don’t notice it.

If it doesn’t come in the language or currency we understand, we brush it off not even registering it as feedback.  Batting it away like a pesky fly – barely giving it a thought.

Until that fly buzzes past again, and again until it demands that you notice it.

Three times in the last fortnight I have been on the receiving end of feedback. Twice I have swatted it away but the third time got me curious. Ummm there seems to be a pattern here.

Exhibit A:  a participant in a workshop “jokingly” mentioned that I did not say that’s a great goal when she shared her goal with me. Apparently, I had said it to all the other people who had shared before her.

Exhibit B: I was at a large school running a workshop for a team. At break time I bumped into a coaching client, let’s call her Susan. I smiled and said hello and turned back to talk with the group I was with. Next time we had a coaching session Susan said I was worried that I had done something wrong, you didn’t seem to want to talk to me. Apparently, I didn’t actually smile after all!

Exhibit C: I have a coaching client who has had regular sessions for three years. She had been a bit quiet lately and when she finally reached out she said: I am just checking that you are still available to coach. Last time I sensed you were super busy and it was interrupting your time. 

Ouch  - three strikes. Three times I had been seen as dismissive, unapproachable, unfriendly or distracted. Oops not me at my best.

On each occasion I had dismissed the feedback as overly sensitive or unreasonable. Why were they even sharing this with ME!? And because I am a blamer – I shamefully swatted the pesky fly back into the other persons court. Clearly, THEY were overreacting and they needed to toughen up!

And then I got curious.

This was behaviour that used to be evident when I was leading a large team. The very patterns of thoughts and behaviour that had got me in trouble a 1000 times in my life.

I absolutely know I can:

  • Play favourites
  • Be hugely over enthusiastic and then nothing but my resting bitch face.
  • Be intolerant of others.
  • Put my needs first and be selfish.
  • Need constant praise and recognition 

These not so charming traits occur when I am:

  • Tired
  • Focussed on a “shiny object” project and everything else became humdrum
  • Not taking time to be present
  • Distracted by all the stuff and forgot about the person in front of me
  • Out of balance

So what about now? Why did these behaviours surface again recently?

This is where my curiosity has led me.

The feedback givers were brave. I am a big personality with a big presence - it takes guts to tell me how you feel!

I am out of balance. I have spent too much time on my own. Happily working away on the things that interest me. Time to acknowledge and be with others.

I am not practicing the eat, move, sleep, restore that I preach. Time to put some more exercise and meditation back into my day.

A wise person once told me that feedback is a treasure hunt, not a witch hunt. The idea is to look for the gold and if there is not much then to look for the lesson and what can be learned.

But most of us would rather have root canal surgery than give or receive corrective feedback and so we miss the treasure that someone might be handing us.

Hello there! I am Jenny Cole - Coach, Consultant and Cheerleader. I work with women to create careers,  workplaces and lives that allow them to flourish.

I love nothing better than watching smart, capable but overwhelmed women step confidently into their best self and truly succeed.

I am endlessly curious with two successful businesses behind me. My blog shares what I see, what I know and random musings.

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