Navigating Feedback from an Invisor

I have the pleasure of working with a coach around evolving my business.  He gave me a juicy new word – “Invisor” – the people in my life who invasively offer advice at times when I don’t want it, don’t feel I need it or when I feel just unable to receive it.

So this is a story from my recent Feldenkrais practitioner training about learning a different way to engage with an Invisor.  In the training we have lots of practice time and structured ways to provide feedback such as asking open questions, asking for permission to offer feedback.  I often had between 5 and 10 practice partners in a day so received feedback from several people over the two week training.  I had a few interactions with another learner that nearly always put me on the defensive and into a reactive state that I didn’t like.   

Over several days, I realized that I was reacting to a way she had of

  1. Telling me what my experience was (rather than asking an open question) and
  2. Telling me what I needed to do better. 

The first put me into a defensive posture which usually for me means fighting back.  The second I received with some resentment and a reaction to set up a boundary – I tried to stop her from giving feedback, changed the topic.   I even confronted her when she came over to call me to account for a comment I made in a group that she found hurtful and dismissive.  (As a context note: In the group, she described something I said in a way that really didn’t sit well with me and it seemed like she really needed her assessment of my experience validated.  I felt defensive so the best I could do was make a neutral statement like, “I can’t resonate with that description.” So just not great communication on both sides.)  After that I changed groups when I found we might be in the same group together.

I had a talk with myself, walking into the training session – challenging myself to find another way to be with this, to explore my options.  I couldn’t change her so what could I change?  What could I explore to make this easier, to still get what I valued from the training?

Before long, I was in a group with this person again and another person I hadn’t worked with before.  We each took turns on a task to practice self-organization.  And sure enough, she started in on a now familiar pattern.  This time, I chose to focus on my inner quiet, the supportive spaciousness I cultivated for the task and just received what she had to say – it was clear she had to say it.  Then I asked for what I needed, which was more time without talking just to explore the task which included touching and lifting our partner’s leg. 

This was really powerful for me.  I created a lovely connection with my third training partner and learned from her feedback ways to improve for the next time.  (One tip I learned, ask someone if they want feedback and ask them when they want it.  They may need some space or time before they can really receive it).  So in the absence of this move by my learning partner, I was able to request the space for learning I needed.  A good lesson for me in what a little self-care can create in the moment when conflict can arise.

The remarks which I found so triggering in prior days had much less impact.  I saw what was possible when I stayed open, connected and well-supported in my posture.  It was a small, but really visceral example of how the ways I organize myself, how I stay open to the support in my environment, literally my pelvis’ contact with the stool, my feet on the floor, my breath, the space in my chest and the light in my heart creates this kind of power to just be in the face of what could rile me up. 

I can have a pretty quick trigger to get riled up.  I have had a long term promise to myself to think before I speak, sleep on the angry email before I sent it.  I can be impulsive but impulsive anger has always gotten me into trouble that I don’t want.  

What this experience showed me was how much easier, how much less work, much less getting worked up it was to practice this open, resilient self-organization.  So my personal invitation and challenge is – I know it is possible – now practice, practice, practice.  I really liked that version of me and I would love to support my clients when I am a certified Feldenkrais practitioner to have that version of themselves more available for the people and things that trigger them.

Have you had “difficult people” in your life that had you feel like you needed to shore up boundaries or avoid them altogether? 

Were you able to find a way past the way you managed your reaction to them?  I would love to hear from you –