Handling Feedback

Got an invitation today to an event that I’ve attended a couple of times in the past. It’s a continuing education conference down in Coos Bay on pediatric topics, usually attended by local FPs and others who practice in the area. The first year that I went the topic was autism, and the subtopics were timely and helpful. Last year they chose ADHD. Most of the speakers were just fine but they invited on child/adolescent psychiatrist with bizarre, unproven fringey beliefs about nutrition and ADHD, and she really just ruined the whole day for me. I filled out a scathing post-event evaluation on her, by the way.

This year, they’ve chosen child abuse as the topic. The brochure that came in the mail came with a handwritten sticky note from the organizer, informing me that if I and the colleague that I had attended with both previous times were planning on coming down, she’d try to get us a good rate at one of the local hotels. Very nice of her, considering all of the scathing things that I wrote on the evaluation. Very adult, to be able to separate criticism of the speaker out from criticism of the organizer herself.

But I won’t be going back. Not being of last year’s speaker, but because the colleague I attended with is no longer speaking to me… and that makes the memories too painful. Details aren’t that important, but there was a situation — really, a series of them — in which criticism and feedback had to be given, despite friendship. Such feedback could have been received in many ways, some more dysfunctional than others. I had hoped that over time, the anger and sense of betrayal would fade and at least a cordial working relationship could be re-established. But it hasn’t.

I’m the first to admit that I, personally, don’t take criticism in a very healthy manner. I sulk about it and fume about it at first, then usually go overboard and take it WAY too much to heart. Harsh criticism leaves me damaged and gun-shy, and I think that’s typical of introverts. But even I can make the distinction between talking about the professional performance and talking about the person. I’ve seen so many staff members hear uncomfortably negative reviews, and then pull themselves together and go on to be fabulous. It’s all about insight into one’s own weakness and strengths.

I don’t hold out much hope anymore for reconciliation, and that makes me sad. While it was often an awkward an uncomfortable friendship, with me ‘walking on eggshells’ to avoid causing offense, it’s still something I miss.

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