Calvin: I sure am great! I’m one of the greatest people who ever lived! How lucky people are to know someone as great as me! I’m great in so many great ways! In fact, I’m so great that my greatness is…
Susie: You’re not great! You’re the most conceited blowhard I’ve ever met!
Calvin: When you’re great, people often mistake candor for bragging.
So, how great are YOU? And have you ever caught yourself shutting down and refusing to hear anything remotely close to criticism? Or better yet, like little Calvin, shout irrationally loud on your own defensive auto-pilot?
We all have our reasons. For everything. It’s only human. So, how do you react when someone sits you down and wants to talk it over? Then you know: it’s that awful time for “feedback!”
You take it as judgment time. And feeling judged is an awkward threat to your core. Threats to our esteem are so powerful they can literally feel like threats to our survival. And then you are scared, terrified, paralyzed by the fear of being discovered – the real you finally coming out.
Yet, how on earth would you learn without criticism? The conundrum is that feedback is necessary. Humility is the recognition that we don’t know, even when we think we know. As Steven Covey says, “Seek first to understand.”
So, why not choose to see feedback as it really is:
It’s not personal: It’s not always necessarily about you. It may be about how others see you – and each one will see you differently and through their own prism. It’s your job to try to make the connection and understand how to be there and talk and deliver so that the other person can understand and see what you want to show or tell them.
It’s a possibility: You get to learn; you get to figure out how to be better, to show how next time (and yes, there is always a next time) you’ll get it right.
It’s about feeling proud: Because you can take it. Because you can do something with it – even ignore it – but mainly because you can deal with your fear of being even better – as fear of success can sometimes be so much bigger than the fear of failure.
It’s about excuses: and excuses are for wimps. So, get over your fear, acknowledge it’s hard, probably idiotically painful, but don’t just sit there.
Addendum: Author Steven Pressfield has pointed out that famous cartoon from the new Yorker where a bewildered-looking person is standing in front of two closed doors. One door says “heaven” and the other says “Books about heaven.” What would you choose? Would you feel ready to go straight into paradise or take a bit more time and think about it?