Is Your Feedback About Them or About You?

Many coaches and leaders give others feedback that is more about the coach or the leader than it is about the client or employee. This is the tricky part about giving others feedback, we have an unconscious tendency to point out in others what we actually do not like about ourselves. Herman Hesse, the Swiss poet, novelist and painter said, “If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself.  What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.”

For instance, I am easily triggered by people with high levels of confidence when it comes across as arrogance to me. Now I have to be careful in this situation because I can be pretty arrogant myself, particularly if I feel the need to defend my credibility. I really don’t like this arrogant part of myself and now I realize that when I don’t like it in others it’s more about me than them.

This is the type of projection Sigmund Freud first described and Janet Steinwedel, PhD warns us about in her new book Authenticity as an Executive Coach. Here is a great example Steinwedel uses in this book.  “One female coach often spoke to me about the neediness of others, but it seemed to me that her own neediness was at the core of her unconscious concerns and behaviors. I later learned that she was often left alone as a child. She saw her mother as aloof and her father as the quintessential businessman.  These are her projections.”

If you are an executive coach or leader regularly engaged in coaching others I would encourage you to explore this book which does a great job providing clarity around Jungian ideas related to the psyche, individuation and projection that are very important to our skillful work as coaches and leaders.

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