Yeah yeah yeah, but…”

In the early Noughties, when I lived near Amsterdam, I used to take part in a coaching group. I didn’t much like the guy who ran it, and I wasn’t crazy about the other people either. But I had a sense it was worth the trouble, so I regularly made the half-hour drive.

One day it was my turn in the hot seat and somebody gave me some feedback. I started answering back immediately. Before I could say more than a few words, the leader held up his hand, palm towards me, and said simply “technische afhandeling” (technical processing).

In other words, I was just going through the motions of taking the feedback. I was not really letting it in – not “letting it land”. My ego was on full alert, finding arguments to dodge the comment, to avoid giving serious consideration to what was they were saying to me. I was more intent on justifying myself than understanding the other person’s perspective. Feeling somehow threatened by well-intentioned feedback, I was pushing back and missing a chance to learn.

I still have to remind myself that often, the most fruitful response to criticism is to shut up for a change, let it percolate and notice what happens inside.

Image credit: “Not listening to a word you’re saying” by Cindy Press.