How to Lead Conversations that end with Vitality

You beat yourself up. So do the people around you. Don’t climb in a hole and pull dirt in on yourself.

Maybe it’s time to throw dirt out of the hole!


While working with a new internal coach, we discussed her fear of failure and the sting of receiving negative feedback. Most of us can relate.

As a training exercise, I asked her to coach me on how to deal with the sting of receiving negative feedback.

Round one:

Her first course of questions sucked me into a hole. Her questions focused on feedback from others. But I can’t control others.

She asked about the criteria of the feedback. Sometimes her questions began, “Do you think?”

I felt the darkness closing in.

Round two:

She said that she felt the conversation going down a rabbit hole but didn’t know how to get out.

I asked her to start again and focus on the sting.

I suggested that she use open questions. Avoid questions that begin with, “Don’t you think.” At this point the conversation radically changed.

She was brilliant.

She asked, “What makes negative feedback sting?”

I said, “I see myself as a person at the top of heap.”

We discussed the desire to excel. (Being at the top of the heap is different from the desire to excel.)

She asked, “What’s important about being at the top of the heap?” This question provided opportunity for self-reflection.

I said, “I want to feel respected.”

We briefly discussed status and respect.

The question that moved the conversation forward popped into my head.

Values-based question:

How might you earn respect when receiving negative feedback?

Vitality returns when values drive behavior. Don’t throw dirt in the hole. Turn conversations toward values.

How might leaders overcome the magnetism of the negative?

How might leaders turn conversations toward values?