“Feedback lets us know how we’re doing, and it helps us feel connected to our organizations, leaders and colleagues.” — Misti Burmeister
Just over a year ago, I started taking voice lessons. My mother was a vocalist, and I’ve always wondered whether I had the same talent. Having never taken a single lesson (with the exception of music class in elementary school), I hired an instructor and started with the basics.
To keep myself engaged, I chose a song that inspires me: “Amazing Grace.” In retrospect, it was probably not the best song for a beginner. But despite its difficulty, the lyrics always leave me feeling uplifted.
I recorded my instructor singing the song so I could use her recording to practice. The problem was that I could not hear my pitch; I didn’t know if the sound coming out of my mouth matched the sound emanating from my recorder.
So, I practiced in the most acoustically-sound room in my home – my shower. With its big glass door, fully surrounded by walls and ceiling, the echo-effect was perfect. I could finally hear myself. And after a few weeks, my voice sounded just like the one on the tape … or so I thought.
Too supportive to provide real feedback, my partner, Yvette, shared encouraging words like, “Keep working at it; you’ll get it.”
My cat, on the other hand, was much more honest with me.
At first, I truly thought Everest was sending me loving, supportive energy as she sat outside the glass door and tried to imitate my sound. Of course, her voice sounded more like a high-pitched screech. After all, she’s only a cat.
Every time I went into the shower to practice, she’d sit outside the door and meow. How cute, I thought. I love you too, sweet kitty.
It wasn’t until I finally listened to a recording of myself that I realized I sounded more like Everest than I thought. Yikes! Fortunately, as I have continued to work at the basics, she no longer screeches at me.
This experience left me wondering how many times I’ve been given valuable feedback and refused to recognize it as such – instead hearing what I wanted to hear.
How many times has there been a metaphorical screeching cat showing you exactly what you needed to know to improve? And instead of reading between the lines, you just ignored it.
Maybe the very people – or cats – who sound annoying are exactly the ones we need to learn from.
Keeping it simple,
Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across Generations, Hidden Heroes and Power Suck.