April 21, 2023

I'm Sorry

I messed up.

First, let me be direct. I sent a blog last week that was a waste of your time. It was a below the line rant. It wasn't on par with the stuff I usually share with you. It didn't respect your precious time, and it didn't honor the privilege of intruding upon your inbox. I'm sorry.

Moments after I sent that email blog post, I received this email from a long time reader of my blog.

Ouch. Sue, I love your work, but I think this rant was better suited for a post on Nextdoor or some other toxic website where people go to complain. I read your newsletter to challenge me to lean into conflict and push my “best leadership self” forward. I feel you on the rant, but the minutes I spent reading this newsletter didn’t feel productive.

I cannot appreciate more the fact that one of the readers of this newsletter made the effort to share feedback in such an incisive, clear, largely blame-free way. They  took the time to open an email and let me know this. I am so grateful for this person. I am so grateful that somehow we have co-created a digital space where people are this direct with me. At my very best, this is exactly the feedback and exactly the form of feedback I would want to be sharing with someone else.


I immediately wrote back and thanked this person, and I told them that I had an advanced hunch in my body that this post was something I should not share. After receiving this feedback and seeing how I had disregarded my gut, I felt waves of shame. I beat the heck out of myself. I was broken hearted about allowing a piece of writing to go without vetting it for the lustiness that can be in my Enneagram Type 8 blind spot. Because this post to me was funny, especially in points. But that below the line humor is exactly the edgy, heated way I go out of presence and move further away from love.

When I advise clients about the process for sharing and receiving feedback, one of the things I invite them to do is to simply say “thank you” when they receive feedback (positive or not). I advise them that anything else they do, even if it's just an explanation, would amount to defensiveness. I encourage people to ask themselves not how the feedback provided is untrue, but how it is true. 

When I had this moment of awareness about how much I had screwed up, which is still a story, I wanted to reach out to so many of you who are on this email list. I wanted to apologize. I wanted to ask you not to open this email. I wanted to make excuses. I wanted to defend. 

Instead of blanketing my friends with an immediate apology, I sat with my broken heart. I tried to find the opposite of my story, that maybe there were pieces of this post that were okay. I imagined some of you would forgive me for this. I knew some of you would not read it, thankfully. I chose to wait some days so I could be sure that what I would say would be authentic, not born of the same lust that created the original post in the first place.

I allowed all of my emotions to flow. It sounds so good when I coach people to allow that. But it really can suck to have the experience. I coach my clients about how feedback is gold. And I always come around to believing that. Even when it hurts so much in that first blink.

This work, my work, is not for the faint of heart. A question one of my teachers once asked is, “How much are you willing to risk for your full aliveness?” I let you all know a couple of years ago that I was going to let blogs go faster without vetting them for perceived value, quality, impeccable syntax. I could excuse this as an example of that. There is still so much learning for me here.

I'm sharing this apology with you because I respect you. My apology is authentic. My regret is less strong than it was moments after sending this blog and receiving that feedback. I am not looking for “help” in feeling “better.” Because if anyone out there helps me feel better about this, I don't get the full extent of the learning that I want from this experience.

For my personality type, it has been historically easier to rant than to care. I much more often engage in care than lusty rants these days. And as with all of our blind spots, the temptation to dive into my shadow side is sometimes a siren calling me. My wakeup call is to notice and then to remember that I always have the choice to choose love instead.

Photo by mark tulin on Unsplash

Sue Heilbronner

Sue Heilbronner is an executive coach, Conscious Leadership facilitator, and catalyst for change.

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