Monday, October 20, 2008


“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”

Do you remember your mother or father telling you this when you were a young child. I can still remember fighting with my older brother in the back of the family mini van and hearing those words come out of my mother’s mouth. As I get older, I am finding it harder and harder to listen to this age old saying. As a personal trainer, I often find myself in situation’s where I have to have the “hard talks” with a customer. The hard talks include telling someone they really need to lose 50lbs because they are putting themselves at risk for type 2 diabetes, cancer, osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, heart disease and stroke. Telling them is hard because they do not realize that they are in “that bad of shape” and you risk hurting their feelings. I have had to tell people that I can not help them anymore until they start to help themselves. Some customers ask you to make them a program, to hold them accountable to their program, for them only to repeatedly not follow it. They will give you every excuse in the book as to why they just couldn’t do it. You put all your time and energy into that person and they give you nothing back. As someone who hates making people feel sad, it is part of my profession and I am only doing it to let that person realize their reality. I want them to be happy and healthy and if I risk hurting their feelings, then so be it. I know in my heart I would be mad at myself if I didn’t say anything at all.

“You want to know the truth, you can’t handle the truth”

It is sometimes challenging telling someone what you really think about them. Sometimes it goes over well and sometimes it doesn’t. You risk having that person be angry with you. Being able to take feedback is one of the most important things you can do. I remember being a young child and having coaches and teachers give me feedback. I always fought it and I always denied the truth. I think most of the time I did this because in my head I knew it was true and that made me sad. I look back now and I know they were just trying to make me a better athlete and student. If I had realized it back then, I would have saved myself a lot time and tears. I used to be afraid of conflict. I was afraid of people disliking me. I lacked self-confidence and self-esteem. The last thing I wanted was a friend to be mad at me.

As I have gotten older I have developed a great sense of self and am full of self confidence. I have my own values and beliefs and I belong to a wonderful support network of friends and family. I am much more willing to take risks. If I have to provide a friend, co-worker, or family member with feedback, which I know they may not like, I have the ability to do it without worrying what my outcome is. If they dislike me after, then fine. It is truly not my loss. That person needs to take a good look in a mirror and realize what they are truly mad at. Most of the time, they are mad at themselves. They know what you said was true and they just weren’t ready to handle it.

When receiving feedback here are some tips that might help:

- Listen to what the person is telling you
- Say thank you for the feedback
- Do not react with emotion, you will regret it later
- Take time away from the person to think about what they said to you
- Understand that what the person was telling you was intended to help you not hurt you
- If you really didn’t agree with what was said, communicate that back in a calm and controlled manner and work through the problem and come up with a solution.

In today’s society, no one is perfect and we all make mistakes. To become better at what we do, we need constant feedback from friends, family, and employers. This Feedback will allow us to grow both personally and professionally. It is important to use this valuable information to improve on what we already know. Don’t fight it; use it to your advantage. It’s basically free information on how YOU can be better.

Nicola Gildersleeve

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