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The Day I Failed

December 9, 2012 fm

I broke my own rule! I broke a robust, sacred, unbreakable rule in all my seminars. I broke the No feedback on feedback rule!

Feedback on feedback usually start with “Yes, but…” and it tends to be purely defensive. We defend our own point of view based on self-assessment, personal experiences and a good portion of pride, which, of course, is one of the seven sins.

Before I dive into lake Waterloo I will not forget to mention that people experience a different kind of feedback in my seminars. In these trainings only positive and constructive feedback is allowed. The real world, on the other hand, loves negative feedback: I didn’t like… It was too much… What I missed was… It’s bad… It was too little… Hence, in the real world it is more understandable that people give feedback on feedback. An eye for an eye until we’re all blind as Gandhi liked to say.

Sugar-coating seminars or the rough real world – I always try to follow my own robust, sacred, unbreakable rule of no feedback on feedback. The other night, at a house party in Munich I failed miserably…

After a classy birthday dinner at the hip Hugo’s, honoring the girlfriend of my friend Michael, we continued to party at his apartment. The usual suspects ended up sipping Champagne and Merlot in the kitchen. After having heard what I was doing for a living, the night’s protagonist, a young, confident business lady in her mid-twenties, launched a good question:

“How come you teach all this rhetorical stuff, if you have never studied it?”

Great question. And what I should’ve answered is something like, “Good point. So far, I’ve followed a 100% practical and experience-driven approach based on seven years or 1,600 hours of passion for good communication. Lately, I’ve been doing more and more literature research, though, in order to enhance the foundation of my work as a trainer and speaker. As I’ve said before, you have a good point here. Thank you.”

This or something similar is what I should’ve said. For sure, I should’ve also acknowledged her thinking. But, I didn’t. I fell into my own trap. I defended myself. I came up with weak arguments like, “You don’t need to study.” Or, “You don’t understand.” Or, “You should talk to my clients.” The more I kept talking, the more she kept smiling. It was that sweet smile of victory. I whirled myself into a battle I couldn’t win and, despite her age, she knew it.

Another lesson learned in life. Next time someone challenges my professional foundation I will totally agree with that person. In a second step I will offer a vision on how I will improve that professional base even more.

Thank you, girlfriend of Michael, for not giving in. You taught me a good lesson: Never break your own rules! Never give feedback on feedback!

Comment (1)

  1. Florian – I have taught you all that you need to know from Aristotle, the Sophists, Plato; JL Austen, Cialdini… you have your education!

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