I was watching a drama series on the Roman empire recently and there was a scene where a legion was about to come under attack from an avalanche of arrows. The centurion screamed, “testudo” which was a signal for them to go into the testudo formation or tortoise formation. Rapidly the soldiers in groups used their shields to form a tortoise-shell-like protective cover in the front, sides, and above their heads against enemy weapons.
The more I thought about this image the more I think it also models our human behavior. When we think we are under threat we go into testudo and put up our shields. Part of this of course is part of our human imperative to survive I just kept us safe. Sometimes however we can perceive lots of things is threatening when a matter of fact they are not.
For some people, the word “feedback” can be made us go testudo.
I’d like to try a little exercise with you. I’d like you to think of yourself in a situation where a person is criticizing you. Just imagine their voice and what that feels like in your body. What do you notice? Do you feel a tightness in your body? Did your heart rate change? Did you feel your body is smaller? In many ways, we do with our body what that Roman legion did. Her shoulders come up in her neck begins to shrink as we become smaller to protect ourselves.
Now I would like you to do the opposite I like you to think about yourself in a situation where someone is praising you and talking about the positive impact of something you did. Just imagine their voice and what it feels like in your body. What do you notice? Is there a change in your posture? Did you notice a smile on your face?
If there’s one thing that is certain it is that feedback impacts us. Very often we are not fully aware of its impact especially if the feedback challenges us. It’s so easy to go into defensive mode and not realize that we are there. The problem is that when we’re in the defensive mode we become closed off and the most important thing is self-protection.
What then are some practices that we can integrate into our lives so we remain open to feedback that might help us grow and otherwise we might be closed off to?
A scientist is trained to do two things very well, make observations and ask questions. These are two incredible practices when we deal with feedback or criticism. Questions can give us better clarity, especially about what needs to change or improve. When given some feedback think about some questions that might help understand the feedback better. It is important to recognize that we may not be able to ask good questions at the moment as the feedback caught us off guard. If this is the case, then ask if we can have some time to think about it and get back with any questions you might have.
For this week’s EQ workout, I have mapped out seven different strategies to help us manage feedback in a more effective way.