June 30, 2020

When You Call Me Brave

Feedback can be just as much about what I hear as what you say.

When you call me brave
I hear that I’ve gone too far
I was overbearing
I hurt someone to make myself look good
I made people uncomfortable

When you call me brave
I hear that I am too much
I talked over people
I got triggered and righteous
I was aggressive

When you call me brave
I hear that I was showing off
I made myself the center of attention
I overstayed my welcome
I overstepped my role

When you call me brave
I hear that I am behaving like four-year-old me
Nicknamed “Susie-too-tough”
By those who did not understand 
My independence was a shield, not a sword

When you call me brave
I hear that I am a liar
I think of all of the things I have been too afraid to do
All of the people I have let down
I have been selfish

When you call me brave
I hear that you are about to abandon me
I imagine it was fun while it lasted
But you don’t want to be pushed this hard, for this long
You will discard me as too much trouble

When you call me brave
I want to curl up in a ball and cover my mouth with my hands
Shame washes over me
I say I will do better next time
I know that “better” might be unattainable, undesirable, or both

When you call me brave
My heart aches
My hands shake
My tears flow
I feel alone

When you call me brave
You send me a muscle emoji
I do not want that emoji
I want this one: ❤️
Yet I know, in essence, for me, they are the same

So if you call me brave,
I am going to do something truly brave
And do my best to hear you as you likely intend it
As confirmation, as affirmation, that I have just risked myself 
For something or someone I love.

Conscious Leadership Exercise: Spark Free-flowing Feedback and Enhance Empathy

First, read this earlier post on feedback.

Next, if you’re still not seeing free-flowing feedback in your work or your life, try playing with this exercise. Ask each person in your group to grab a piece of paper for this, and be sure you read the next prompt only after everyone has completed the one before it.

1.    Invite each person to identify and jot down one piece of “positive” feedback they routinely receive (e.g., you are inviting and welcoming)

2.    Ask each person to write down what they actually hear inside their head when they receive that feedback (e.g., you are fake)

3.    Go back to the feedback itself, and ask each person to name one positive aspect of that piece of feedback (e.g., I can be warm)

4.    Then, ask each person to name one negative or shadow aspect they think, in truth, can be associated with behavior that can trigger that feedback (e.g., I can hide my true opinions from others, and this devalues my voice)

Sue Heilbronner

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

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