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Here are three circumstances: 

  1. Boss says not this way, that way. 
  2. Business owner sends group email with information about how to coach. 
  3. Friend responds with I can’t help, so and so can.

I get to interpret these situations anyway I want to. 

By default my brain is set up to scan this information to see if I’ve done anything wrong.

Almost always, it thinks I have. When you are looking for what’s wrong, you can always find something. 

In every scenario above, my brain thought that I should have known better. 

  1. I should have anticipated what my boss would want. Therefore everyone thinks I suck. 
  2. I’ve probably done what she’s talking about. Therefore everyone thinks I suck.
  3. I shouldn’t have asked in the first place. Therefore everyone thinks I suck.

When my body responded to these thoughts by feeling ashamed, my fears felt validated. I’m feeling terrible, so I must have done something really, really bad. 

When you’re in the midst of a shame storm, it’s challenging to see past it unless you offer yourself another perspective. 

So I thought of a recent example where I gave someone else feedback. 

My new British colleague and I have been working together on some written coaching for our clients. There were a few times where she wrote the British version of a word instead of the Americanized version. Fibre vs. Fiber, Organise vs. Organize. 

Does calling this to her attention mean that I think she sucks? That’s almost absurd to consider. 

But she could have made this mean so many things, including that she sucks. 

What this really means is that I have a particular preference for how words are spelled for this particular set of clients.

No one did anything wrong, I just have a preference. 

The same in the scenarios above. They just have a preference for what they want. 

If nothing has gone wrong then, what are we left with? Useful information. 

So I ask myself instead: How can this information help me? 

This is a question that opens us up to possibilities, instead of shutting me down. 

For the first scenario, I can see that I’m not seeing the bigger picture, but my boss is. I start wondering how I can see the bigger picture in more situations. 

For the second scenario, her information helps me across the board in my coaching. I wonder how I can receive more useful feedback to become an even better coach. 

For the third scenario, instead of asking the other person for help, I figure it out myself which was so much more rewarding. I wonder how I can figure out more things out that confuse me. 

Same circumstances, two very different approaches. 

One shuts me down and keeps me stuck. 

The other opens me up and sends me forward.

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