Can You Hear It?

Do you know how amazing you are?

Do you recognize your brilliance?

Did you actually hear it when you got that
fantastic feedback?

It was the second day of the workshop. The group
dynamic was working well.  There was that intimacy
that comes with this type of inner work.  It was
time to tell our stories.

We each had to stand up and give a 7 minute
presentation.  We had been building up to this
over the last few sessions, we were well prepared.
The minute she stood up, it was clear that she
was uncomfortable.  She shuffled a few sheets of
paper in her hand and began to clear her throat.
As she looked out into the audience, she didn’t
quite catch anyone’s eyes.  In that moment, it
looked like she would rather be anywhere else in
the world.

The truth is that what she had to say was
fascinating, her story was great but her delivery
was awful.  She fidgeted, fretted and frowned
throughout the whole agonizing 7 minutes.  The
rest of the group were shifting in their seats and
completely distracted from her story by her

Despite this, she had a sweetness and
vulnerability that reflected her dedication and
humility.  It was fascinating to experience.
Then it was time for feedback.   The facilitator
took a deep breath; he seemed confused as to where
to start.  There were clearly two ways this could

We all know that we need to give positive
feedback first.  We need to hone in on what works
well and there is always something that works
well.  Then we can go on to suggest options for
growth and development. 

Have you noticed how few people actually say,
this really didn’t work and here’s how you can do
it better?  How we have replaced ‘criticism’ with
‘constructive feedback’ and ‘developmental

I am a great fan of saying it straight.  I
believe that we need to be courageous and give and
receive feedback that helps us grow.  I don’t
believe in being overly politically correct.  Just
say it as it is.

However, there is one really important difference
between feedback that helps us grow and develop
and feedback that can shut us down and make us
feel completely dispirited.

Often it’s down to the difference between two
simple words.

Let’s try it.

“Your story was really interesting, you have some
great material but you really need to work on your
presence as you tell it.”

“Your story was lovely, very interesting and I
have some suggestions as to how you can be more
present as you tell it.”

What’s happening here? We replaced ‘but’ with
‘and’.  What a difference!

When you use ‘and’, it is a statement of
inclusion.  “You are amazing and here’s how you
can grow.”

When we use ‘but’, it’s as if the positive
feedback is not important and the focus needs to
be on the parts that did not work.

It’s subtle but huge!

This is not just the case with telling stories.
It’s the same in any situation where you need to
give feedback.  To your client, your child or you
partner, when you use the ‘and’ it expands the
experience and leaves the listener with a sense of
potential and positivity.

When we get stuck in the ‘but’, we can’t even
hear about what went well.  Think about it, last
time someone gave you feedback, could you hear it?

I’d love to hear your stories about
feedback…AND if you would share them here, that
would be wonderful!

Best wishes and best stories

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2 comments on “Can You Hear It?

  1. I was sitting at a wedding when the waitress came up to me to say that she was a former pupil of mine in 12th grade. Because of my teaching, as well as the school support – having marathon study sessions during the holidays, as well as volunteers working with them one on one – they passed the test. They became so fluent, orally, that they all (except one girl with emotional difficulties) passed the oral proficiency exam with flying colors. They were a small group of 10 girls whom the principal wanted push to take the difficult Matriculation exam in English. They were pretty weak when they started, so there was a lot of ground to cover (to make up in one year all of high school). But when the results came in, the school inspector mentioned at a lecture how she was amazed at the great results especially from the vocational schools. I elbowed my friend saying she means my school. Passing the oral exam gave them the confidence to plug on. I had left the school before getting the results of the written exam. But the waitress told me how one girl is working for a lawyer and they’re all doing very well – owing to their successful English exam.

  2. My debut acting job as Tituba in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” was a resounding success. It wasn’t easy learning my part by heart, but luckily it wasn’t that long, 2 monologues and some dialogue. My fellow actors, all young students, knew my part as well as their own. But my Barbados accent was right on the mark – which was why my audition was so successful. The difficult part are the short dialogues, where you have to pick up your clue. Rehearsals were difficult, but the director was a sweetheart who hardly ever lost his temper. Well, I finally did learn my lines and opening night went quite smoothly. But the next night a fellow actor forgot to provide a clue, but I was able to cover for him – not realizing I was doing so – but the director noticed. My friends and family in the audience thought my acting was the most professional (natural) on stage, as I worked myself up to an emotional frenzy on stage – compared to the rather stilted performance of the others. And thus began my acting career. Well, the play I was in recently, the director was pretty strict and not as encouraging, but my British accent which I put on got a comment from an audience member “Are you from London?” Yeah, I replied, Miami Beach, London…

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