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The Best Feedback Isn’t Always Positive

I was talking to a long-time speaker friend earlier this week – it had been too long since we last spoke – about my plans for 2010 when he stopped me and said, “Whoa, wait just a minute… I’ve gotta tell ya that on the phone here, a red flag has gone up…” Uh oh, I thought. What’s the red flag?

“It sounds like your batteries a little low,” he said. And he wasn’t talking about my phone batteries. He went on to tell me that I wasn’t sounding like myself; that my voice was lacking its usual energy.

This was a surprise to me, because I was feeling pretty good that day – I was only halfway through my morning coffee, so maybe that played a small role. No matter, though. He pointed out something very important. In my business, most of my client encounters are via phone or email. This good friend knew what I normally sounded like and knew I was a little off. For someone talking to me for the first time, maybe they wouldn’t notice, or maybe they would, and would then think, “Wow, this guy needs a boost! I think I’ll call someone who’s got a bit more pep in his step!”

Now this wasn’t the easiest thing for me to hear – does anyone enjoy hearing about their faults? – but it was exactly what I needed to hear. A stranger wouldn’t dare tell me this – she would just hang up and proceed to call someone else, gone forever. I’m very appreciative of my buddy for pointing this out to me, and I’ve kept it in mind on every phone call since.

So I just admitted to you that I was sounding a little down earlier this week. What does that mean to you?

  1. It’s a reminder – an admonition – to surround yourself with people who know you well, but who are also honest enough to tell you when you’re a little off. (Don’t surround yourself with people who only tell you when you’re a little off, though – you want people who tell you when you’re off with the intention of making you better… not with the intention of breaking you down.)
  2. It’s a reminder that you need to be willing to listen to and accept feedback even when it’s not exactly what you want to hear. Never get to the point where you can’t accept constructive criticism. You’ve become a speaker because you have something to say, and people want to hear from you. Don’t fall into the trap, though, of thinking you’re the expert and you don’t need to hear from anyone else.

So that’s my little story for the week. I know I’m better for it, and I hope you will be, too!

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