I recently gave a presentation to 26 people. At the end 25 gave my program a thumbs up, leaving one unhappy camper who wrote a D for disappointed after every question on the evaluation. Naturally I wanted to know why. What I learned was not what I expected.
Initially, I did what a lot of us do, I wondered if I said something offensive, came on a little too strong or maybe I didn’t quite explain something enough. The truth is unless someone takes the time to write down some honest, constructive feedback we will never really know the truth.
Feeling frustrated, I did the first thing to avoid when receiving criticism: I went to another presenter down the hall to share (vent) my experience. The other presenter did her best to cheer me up, “Oh Sheri, she said, you’re smart and pretty, she is probably just jealous.” “Or maybe, she was just having a bad day?” I added. “Just let it go,” my colleague replied.
Now, that probably would have been a good thing for me to do but rather than take her advice instead I moved onto the second thing to avoid: I asked her how her evaluations were (compared) and then I conveniently looked over her shoulder as she sorted through them so she wouldn’t have to bother reporting the results. Sure enough, as I expected, no Ds were in her pile. Crap.
I drove away from the experience feeling a bit drained. Repeating to myself, “I don’t get it, what was so disappointing?” This would be followed by a little more positive self-talk, such as, “Sheri focus on the people you really helped and all those positive comments you received” which quickly led into number three: I said to myself, “Sheri it is about her not you.” In other words, I made it her issue not mine.
The reality is if we are the ones who are reacting then it is our experience to own. In fact, it is never about the other person, it is about the process. The process is the steps we take to achieve a certain endpoint. Here is the thing, process can either be conscious or unconscious. When it is conscious we are aware of what we are doing and our surroundings. Unconscious process happens when we take steps which are being driven by feelings and/or beliefs (e.g., we want to be perfect, or the fear of disappointment) we may not be fully aware of.
We know we are processing something unconsciously when we are spending most of our time thinking, analyzing, venting, comparing and blaming it on the other person. Conscious processing on the other hand, happens when we are coming from a state of awareness. This means we are connected to our bodies, observing our sensations and as this occurs we effortlessly activate our breathing. The more aware we are the slower we breathe and as this occurs the very thing which might have originally struck a nerve is likely to ease its way through us. Similar to how a dark cloud eventually makes its way across a sky.
Unconscious processing creates resistance, doubt and insecurity while conscious processing frees our minds from chatter and allow our bodies to fully digest all experiences without labeling them as good or bad. So when it comes to receiving criticism it is best to embrace what is happening in our bodies rather than resist, control or attempt to make sense of it through our minds. As this occurs we automatically honor those around us. This is one of the key ingredients to true freedom. It isn’t until we are able to fully release the need to know why and consciously choose to focus on the present moment that we will be able to fully experience the wisdom and strength which resides in the experiences we encounter.
Author: Sherianna Boyle
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Flickr/Bill Strain