Most people in the field of coaching, mentoring, teaching are familiar with the “shit sandwich ”: Tell them what they did right, then give the things to work on, then finish with a strength that they can build on. In my field of experience, being able to take constructive criticism is considered a great strength, a fundamental key to growth in one’s professional acumen. Without constructive and objective feedback, one cannot hope to continually improve. However, receiving feedback is a different animal altogether: It raises the heart-rate, pushes personal triggers and touches a part of ourselves, that we may not be ready to fully acknowledge. When someone speaks a truth of our innermost being, we may not recognize it at first for what it actually is. We experience it as a knot in our stomach, flushed cheeks, or shortness of breath. Honest feedback can be painful, uncomfortable; it can make us feel a resistance in our bodies, which is quite impalpable. It is when it hits this place of discomfort that we know that it has touched on an inalienable truth. Otherwise, we would have no physical reaction: no sweaty palms no flushed cheeks, no upset stomach.
But it is in this exact place of awareness, honesty and nakedness that we experience the truth or our experience. One of the most difficult pieces of constructive feedback is realizing that in every harsh criticism uttered, there remains a grain of truth – that we must seek out and embrace, if we are to be truly successful!
But this is in the receiving. In the giving, we must allow for the persons’ right to not be in a place to receive the feedback! Receiving constructive criticism takes grace and presence – and if you happen to be having a shitty day – forget about it! I contend that it is the onus of the coach/trainer/mentor to ask with sincerity: “Are you open to receive feedback right now?” …. And then to leave much room for the respondent to say “No!” I’ve had a shitty day, week, hour and I really am not in a place to receive feedback at this moment – can it please wait a day or two?” I have actually exercised this right in my own life – and I cannot extoll the benefits highly enough to those who profess to be practitioners. Because some days your just in a bad place, and you can’t take any feedback from another person assessing your craft – good or bad.
When we assess others for their perceived benefit, we must leave them with the right to say: “I’m not necessarily ready, can you give me a moment?” - Would you not appreciate the same graciousness when you work is on trial?