I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Michele Chung's reflection The Art of Processing Feedback.
While a contemplative life is a personal and solitary journey, we are at the same time intended to live in community. An important part of this relationship is our dialogue with our friends and family. The feedback we receive, however, can often be a mixed bag of advice ranging from mere personal opinions to wise counsel. It’s often a confusing and messy process to figure out which advice we should listen to.
The good news is that the contemplative practices actually help us better discern the words that others share with us. The more clarity we have about our own journey, the easier it is to learn and benefit from others’ suggestions and input. Here are some key principles that help me process through the feedbacks I get.
- Remember your focus. When you process through any feedback, it’s important to remember what your focus is for this season. If the feedback helps you grow further in your key area, then meditate on it. Otherwise, feel free to put it aside for now. A great advice that’s meant for a different season may end up being a distraction in the now.
- The right advice is encouraging and inspiring. The right kind of feedback will be encouraging and inspiring. It should bring clarity and peace to a stressful heart. Even a word of correction should bring a sense of clarity and hope rather than guilt and despair. The right kind of feedback on a creative project will also bring great synergy and even open unexpected doors.
- Examine your response. When a word or suggestion stays on your heart or mind, try to understand what is causing that. Meditate and look deeper. Did it stir up fear or anger? Or a peaceful agreement and acceptance? Or even excitement? Even when there’s an element of fear, it can reveal a part of your heart that you may not be aware of. Sometimes the response of your heart gives more insight than the feedback themselves.
- Know your own tendencies. We all have our “button” issues. If you know your triggers, then you won’t be so easily distracted by them when you receive feedback on those areas. I tend to be a people-pleaser and can be easily influenced by others. This has led to much unnecessary confusion and distraction when I felt guilty rejecting feedback from my friends. Once I see my issues, however, I’m more objective throughout the process, and can graciously let go of things that are not helpful, and move forward.
- It’s not always about you. Ironically, some comments reflect more about the heart of the speaker rather than about you. What someone sees in your life may trigger their own fears and concerns. Admittedly, this is hard to discern, and I don’t easily jump to this conclusion in my own processing. However, there have been a few times when comments heavily weighed on my heart, and I simply didn’t have much insight. Suddenly, I was reminded of the speaker’s background or history, and then it was clear why they made those comments. Their comments reflected more about their own journey than mine.
Discerning and processing through feedback is more of an art than a science. The key is to keep our hearts connected to the still small voice inside and allow God to guide us. It may seem more expedient to just accept someone’s word or advice because they are a spiritual leader or a trusted friend. Or it may feel justified to reject a word because we feel offended. I’ve found, however, that taking the time to seek divine insight and work through my inner responses have kept me away from old assumptions and blind spots, and in the end, gave me the breakthrough I really wanted. Although it may feel intimidating in the beginning, I hope these principles will help you ease into your own process.
Michele loves reading and learning about all things contemplative. After a myriad of jobs, she is currently working at a bookstore and pursuing art and blog writing in her spare time. Michele lives in Silicon Valley with her husband and a house full of books. You can find more of her writings at mzchele.wordpress.com.