Feedback Labels and Definitions: Words Have Power

According to Webster's dictionary, aggressive is defined as:

ready and willing to fight, argue, etc. : feeling or showing aggression: using confrontational, forceful methods to succeed or to do something

 I had the pleasure of being a guest speaker at an incredible healing event this past weekend. I'm always humbled and full of gratitude when someone request my presence, talent, opinion, and advice, or to hear my story and methods of growth. When you "put yourself out there” you must be willing to receive and process all that comes with it, including feedback. In a necessary debriefing call with the event organizer, I was told I received majority praise from attendees for my assessment: relatable, transparent, etc. Additionally, someone stated that my coaching style or presence was "aggressive," during a brief interaction with one woman, and my questions and commentary about her role and ownership in her pain. Aggressive, you say? Was it my tone, aka delivery, body language, words, or all of the above? If it was just one out of the three, is the label fair or should the feedback have been more concrete, because words can possess more than one meaning, right? Hmmm...My mind begins to percolate. Though this word aggressive is perceived as negative, this label did not bother or anger me; it intrigued me. I respect, encourage, and value the honesty of others; whether I agree with it or not, especially when it leads to my thoughts being provoked, self-assessment and growth. So thank you whoever you are, and continue to speak your truth!

                                     photo credit:

                                     photo credit:

In one of my favorite books "The Four Agreements" Don Miguel Ruiz, writes up four life-changing rules, for living a better life. My favorite is number two:

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally

"Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering."

I take this rule seriously and make an effort to incorporate this practice in when processing my feelings. As a human, who is never done growing, depending on the source of criticism, it isn't always my default setting. But I'm learning not to tap into an emotional attachment with labels and words. As someone who wakes up curious every day, I now dive into my logical side and want to understand and dissect the label. If we've had a conversation, most likely it went something like this.

Person: Worst first date ever! He was so mean to me. I won't go with him again!

Me: Define "mean."

Person: What do you mean "define mean?"

Me: What's your definition of "mean'?" It may vary from his or mines, or from the actual meaning of the word. If you understand the meaning, you can label the word, action, person or feeling correctly. It's possible that is he wasn't mean at all; he could just been guarded, which is understandable on a first date, and you interpret as mean."

This irritates people because most people speak solely from a place of their experience, as The Four Agreements state, not the actual definition of a word or term and do not want to be held accountable for blanket statements and the misuse of their words; which is one reason why there is so much dysfunction with communication. Do I believe I was ready and willing to fight, argue, like the definition states? NO! Do I believe I use(d) a confrontational method in that moment and in my coaching style? YES! Confrontation is, in fact, a form of aggression, so in some aspect, she/they were absolutely right! I displayed aggression.

As a certified life coach, my training is designed not to allow one to get "stuck", and to help people realize that they are in control of their life. How to teach people how to treat them, and to realize and accept that their happiness and actions on the quest for growth and healing are their responsibility. To help them detect, avoid and shift the 'red flags' that they may have missed, or ignored and to use these new found self-awareness tools to propel them forward in the direction of their goal destination, and make Better Life Choices.

                          image via

                          image via

Most people, who seek help are turned off by a mirror being put in their face at first. It is jarring, scary, feels like an offensive attack, and often it does not match up with their definition of "help." Trust me, I know! Not all, but usually, most people in pain, prefer their "help" to include venting, indulgence, sitting with other people who share their issues, discussing their pain over and over again. That is not what life coaching is. While every life coach's style is different, the point of life coaching is to move forward, unlike some forms of therapy. With me, Coach Stefanie, know that I believe that one cannot move forward in life without some sort of confrontation. Confrontation of your fears, actions, self-doubt, your role in your life, and the role you allow others to play in your life.

I challenge you to be clear on the definitions of your words and hold those around you accountable for their words. Strengthening the communication muscle is necessary for healthy, successful, sustainable relationships. I no longer carry the burden of needing to be liked by others, I'm fully aware and okay with knowing that I'm not always going to be everyone's cup of tea, in life and in business. And though I don't take peoples criticism personally, I'm wise enough to acknowledge that others may have some valid points with their say that I may need to take into consideration.

Know that if we speak personally or professionally if you refer to yourself, someone, their actions or your feelings, I will ask for clarity so that I'm not speaking from a knowledgeable place, not one of ignorance. I want to know what you mean. I want you to know what you mean. More importantly, I want you to be the best version of yourself, and that includes being a better communicator.

Do you choose your words wisely?

Coach Stefanie, Life Architect

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