A Simple Yet Powerful
Tool for Change

The 'shocking' aspect of feedback

The universal first, instantaneous reaction to critical feedback is ... Shock! This is followed by Anger, Rationalisation, and finally Acceptance. Here’s how to deal with the shock ....
The SARA model

From Shock to Acceptance … people generally use the label "SARA" for the four stages that one goes through when they get feedback - especially 'negative' feedback. SARA stands for
  1. Shock
  2. Anger
  3. Resistance, Rationalisation
  4. Acceptance

It is often emphasised that coaching is for successful people (i.e. it is not a remedial programme to fix a problem). Coaching is mostly leveraged by senior folks, in relatively high positions in their organisations.

And senior successful people have a fairly strong positive self-image, they know they 'can do', they know they have something that has worked for them in their careers and relationships.

When such people are given honest feedback about their 'areas for improvement or change', the first reaction is often shock! Their self-image is shaken. As Thomas Szasz observed, "Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one's self-esteem". Injuries hurt. Shock is a natural reaction, to be expected.

Some ways you can manage this shock -
  • Focus on the goal i.e. learning
  • Expect it i.e. be willing to suffer a potential injury to your self esteem, tell yourself it is not the end of the world
  • After the first reading of your report, don't react, don't work on it, don't do anything for a while … allow the feedback to slowly seep into your thoughts. Plan to re-engage with the feedback after a period of time (a week or two)
  • The best option is to have a coach facilitate a discussion with you over your feedback - the coach will help you 'unpack' the feedback constructively.
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