I had a customer meeting this morning about a longstanding issue and we were hoping we'd finally identified the people who might be able to help us solve it. It was a reasonably productive meeting, with lots of good takeaways.
I had driven up with my boss and as we drove away from the meeting she said, "So, you were pretty frustrated in that meeting." I readily agreed, as the action items they were requesting moving forward were things I had already been doing for months, but clearly no one had been paying attention. "Yeah," she replied, "it was really obvious." She continued to say that we have to go along to get along and other assorted comments about playing nice.
The conversation moved on, but I was rattled. I take constructive criticism very seriously, as I think it's worth its weight in gold. No-one likes to give it, no-one knows how to take it, and then we all end up not knowing how we can improve and getting blindsided when someone critiques us. I am always telling my managers that I want more of it. And yet somehow, it was really hard to hear.
Part of it is that no-one likes to screw up and I didn't want to be responsible for damaging the working relationship we have with this customer. I am a fast learner when it comes to this stuff and I won't make this particular mistake again. Every time I'm in a meeting from this day forward, until the day I die, I will remember my boss's comment and do my damnedest to keep frustration off my face and out of my voice.
But the real challenge I have with this particular feedback is that it touches a nerve for me. If you know me, you know I am loud, expressive, and an emotive open book. I am a lot of human. I own those characteristics, because they make me who I am. To not be any of those things would be to not be myself, to hide, to mute my personality. Generally, people can like it or lump it (and sometimes, they lump it, which is their right). Was it inappropriate to be frustrated in that particular meeting, with those particular stakeholders, over that particular topic? Did they even notice or was it just something my boss was sensitive to because she herself is quite expressive?
I will not be quiet because I make you uncomfortable but...sometimes we have to adapt to the circumstances and our environment.
I came back to my office and I ate my feelings in the form of someone's kid's rejected Halloween candy. That is not self-care. I noticed walking back from chatting with someone across the office that my shoulders were practically touching my ears because I was so tense. That is not self-care.
I should have made a cup of tea instead of mainlining tiny Twix and Crispy Crunch. I should have done a vinyasa at my desk and stretched it out before trying to plunge back into work. I should have forgiven myself for being frustrated and resolved to do better instead of sitting here obsessing over it.
But here we are. Water bottle fresh and full. 5 minute cubicle stretch break. Deep cleansing breath. Loop the shoulders. Onwards.