The best way to stop someone from giving you feedback is to make the person regret giving it to you. The quickest way to do this is to attack the person and call their credibility into question because these things will evoke a visceral reaction in them.
I noticed myself almost doing this the other day. My Group Ex cycling team leader took my class and we team taught. After class I asked him for his feedback. He likes the way I teach and believes that I have a good handle on what I’m doing. He suggested that I verbally coach and cue the riding positions to help the participants find a more athletic position. My automatic reaction was to think “I did that” and then “I did it more than he did” then “who is he to say that?”
What do these thoughts indicate?
“I did that” – this one really amounts to me interpreting what he is saying as an attack on me. My reaction was to assume his suggestion to do it more meant that I didn’t do it at all because I am not very good at instructing.
“I did it more than he did” – this is the beginning of the personal attack on him. It is basically something like “I did it more than you, you are saying that I need to do it more therefore you really didn’t do it at all”. It draws his credibility into question and it starts to paint him as being a hypocrite.
“Who is he to say that” – escalation the personal attach by belittling him; basically calling his qualifications into question so I don’t have to consider what he is saying.
In less time than it took to think it my brain had perceived and defended against an ego attack with no conscious input from me. The thoughts just presented themselves one after the other and in no time at all I had create the reason for not listening to what he was saying.
Fortunately over the years I’ve became more aware that I have these automatic reactions to the things I unconsciously perceive so I didn’t say or do anything other than listen to what he was saying and let the thoughts wash over me. I trust my team leader because I believe he is a good person who has my best interest at heart. He’s also a good instructor with good form and great fitness so his advice and feedback are both useful and honest; I know that it will help me and that is why I asked him for it.
Talking back to the automatic response:
“I did that” – I did, I know I did because I remember doing it and I do it every class. I do it out of habit because I’ve been instructing for a while. However, there was nothing to indicate that more positional cueing would have had a negative impact on the class or that it wouldn’t have helped them out. In fact, more of it would have been a good thing. It’s good feedback.
“I did it more than you did” – I don’t know if I cued the class more than he did but it really doesn’t matter. His feedback is good feedback – it isn’t good feedback because he or anyone else does it, it’s good feedback because it would have made the class better.
“Who is he to say that” – who is he not to say it? He’s an expert so what he has to say about it is worth hearing. Even if the feed back was to come from one of the participants it would have been worth hearing. People have a sense of what has order and what is unnatural; you don’t need to be an expert to offer advice on ways to improve something. This is particularly true when receiving feedback about an experience. Anyone having the experience BECOMES an expert so their feedback is worth hearing.
This week I took his advice and cued more. I did notice an improvement in the performance of some of the participants. Their shoulders stayed back while their chest remained up and open. When I cued their posture towards the end of the tough tracks some of them seemed to respond and increase their effort. By remaining open to his feedback, I became a better instructor.
If you notice that you have a tendency to close off when people offer you advice or feedback, you may want to consider talking back to your automatic response in order to reprogram it.
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