Last night at Youthline I assessed a trainee counselor to go solo on the phones. When I first started working with him I had real concerns. He appeared over confident and wasn’t putting the callers at ease. I gave him some pretty blunt feedback at that stage because I felt that he could take it. And boy, could he. The changes I saw in him last night were amazing. In just a couple of months he has moulded himself into a caring, thoughtful listener. He makes notes of any ‘learning edges’ (as Youthline calls negative feedback – it’s a very touchy, feely organisation) that he is given and works methodically to sort them out. I really admire him for that.
Taking criticism is something that not many of us are particularly good at. We tend to write it off as a fault of the person that’s giving it. I have always had a personal rule whereby if I heard the same thing from more than 2 people, that it was something I needed to take notice of. Not to say that it necessarily meant I would do something about it. But it signified that I probably should.
To be able to listen and take on feedback is a crucial part of learning any new skill, so to a degree we all do it all the time, but when it is on a more personal level we tend to lock up and shut it out. There was a key period in my life when Mary and I were both back living at home after graduating university. We were fighting a lot so mum sent us to a facilitator. Mary thought that I was always in too much of a hurry, always running at 100%, not slowing down to enjoy my life. When the therapist asked me whether I wanted to change, I said no. I meant it. I like the way I live. It was a change that was required of Mary if she was going to accept me. And she did. I walked out of that office feeling like I had won, but in retrospect, she was the person that did the valuable learning and made the difficult change. I respect her for that. I wasn’t in a position at the time to give any credance to what she was saying. (I still stand by the fact that I don’t want to change that particular thing about myself, but had it been necessary, I still don’t think I would have taken it on board).
So perhaps we should consider feedback from others as a gift.
They offer us something that perhaps we can’t see for ourselves.