Why You Should Never Start Feedback With “Don’t Take This Personally?”

20 - The quality of your attention - SBSWhen you are building relationships and growing a business change is the one thing that is constant and learning to communicate with clarity and confidence when you are frustrated or annoyed is important.

One sure thing that will set you up to fail is starting with the sentence – “Don’t take this personally.” The brain doesn’t hear the don’t.

It hears “take this personally” and if you are going to give feedback then let’s face it – to some extent it is personal. For years I knew I had to be less sensitive to criticism but it is only recently that I have learned to manage my critic and discovered how you to actually receive criticism without taking it personally. So I decided to write a book which will be launched in Dec 2016.

If your intention is to communicate in a way that it is not taken personally then here are some strategies you can follow.

  1. Clarity – have absolute clarity of the outcome you do want. If you don’t want them to take it personally then what do you want instead. Maybe you want to express how you feel about something without upsetting them. Maybe you want to tell them they have done something that is wrong or that has not worked for you and you want to find a solution. But your attention really needs to be on what do you want them to do or say as a result of your communication. What do you want to change?
  2. Confidence – then consider how do you need to be to communicate with clarity and confidence your message. Often when we have a mixture of emotions our tone, pace and overal attitude can impact how our communications are received. Communicating when you are angry or frustrated invariably results in the other person simply reflecting back the same kind of behaviour or withdrawing in which case nothing is achieved. If you are interested in more information about this you might find this useful; “How to take the drama out of your communication?”
  3. Change – think about what support or resources you or they might need for change to happen.

I love the clean feedback models referred to in the book “From Contempt to Curiosity – creating the conditions for groups to collaborate”

This model helps you break down and separate the facts from the emotions.

For example if you feel someone is taking advantage of your good nature. You might say don’t take this personally but I feel you are taking advantage of my good nature.

Where as what is more useful and resourceful and less likely to be taken personally (although not guaranteed) would be;

When I work for you and you don’t pay me or say thank you, I infer that you don’t value what I do. The impact is that I feel that you are taking advantage of my good nature and I resent working and what I would like to have happen is to work with and feel valued.

The Clean Feedback framework used to acquire this were:

What I hear and see is ………..


What I infer from that is ………………….


The impact on me is ……………………….


What I would like to have happen is…………………..


By using this model you can manage your critic and communicate with clarity and confidence the change you want.

If you found this article useful let me know in the comments below. Any questions please feel free to ask and if you have any examples of when this worked that would be great to hear too.

Feel free to share below your thoughts or join us in the Facebook group Manage Your Critic – Clarity confidence and change.


About the Author – Sheryl Andrews – The Strength and Solution Detectivehow to improve listening skills

Sheryl Andrews, Founder of Step by Step Listening, is well known for fast speaking and passion to make things happen. But what many of you may not know is that in private behind closed doors she was also no stranger to lapses in self belief and an overwhelming sense of not being good enough.

That was until she learned to manage her critic and communicate with clarity and confidence the change she wanted. Sheryl runs programmes that create space for you to gain clarity of what you want and the confidence to ask for it and all the tools and resources you will need to make it happen. From planning to delegation and everything in between.

If you are struggling to be heard and understood and it is preventing you from doing your best work and living your best life then please do book a 30 minute call today with no obligation and I will happily set you up for success. Or find out more about how to manage your critic in 21 days with our on line library and webinars that explain why the critic occurs and practical ways to manage it.

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A Tribute To My Mum


Dear Mum,

Today is the 10th Mother’s Day without you.

I remember when I was a child and even as an adult I would write you vial letters when I was in pain because I had no other way of speaking to be heard. I remember sneaking the letters under your pillow when I was cross with you and didn’t know how to tell you that I was hurting without being seen and heard as naughty or rude.

Then day by day as you slipped away, we sat and talked to the early hours and gradually we began to have the confidence to have those conversations face to face that we had avoided for so many years.

Thank you to the photographers that released these photos after mum died free of charge ....

Thank you to the photographers that released these photos after mum died free of charge ….


I will always be grateful for that day as we held hands and you asked me what was the matter?

You said I had ‘That face on’ the one apparently I always have when I am upset.

At first I said there was nothing wrong. I didn’t want to make a fuss, my upset seemed selfish and insignificant under the circumstances, for heaven sake you were dying.

But you insisted and slowly the courage grew inside and I had to know before you were gone.

I remember the words catching in my throat. It was difficult to talk without crying. I was worried about how I worded it – I didn’t want you to feel bad or think I was complaining and I wrestled for sometime to get the words out.

I then said “I don’t understand, last night you called us all to the hospital – all being my Dad, my brother and my sister. You passed a ring to Carl and said this is for you, you passed a ring to Linda and said that was for her and then you passed me a ring for my daughter Paige and said that was for her. And you didn’t pass me a ring”

As the final words came out the tears trickled down my face because this was not the first time I had felt excluded and left out. I had never known what I had done wrong and why I never felt loved. I had always tried so hard to be good and not break the rules but it never seemed to gain me the response I expected.

Then you held my had mum and said “Sheryl don’t be daft you’re the oldest you get my wedding ring – I just had to organise the others as it was not as obvious”

In that moment I learned that my mum had always loved me and that how I interpreted and judged behaviour without having the courage to ask and be curious had often caused me to feel unloved, different and excluded.

As I sat and reflected about the past few weeks – I remembered the night of the rings in more detail and now my attention is not on what didn’t happen but what did happen

I had arrived after the rest of my family. My sister was sat to the right holding my mum’s hand and my brother sat to her left holding her other hand and my dad was stood behind my sister. When I arrived I was invited to sit on the chair at the foot of the bed. I felt miles away and it was like I was watching a family I was not part of. The image was representative of how I felt many times before. The oldest of 3 i had often watched the unit of 4 and not quite felt like I belonged.

Then something weird, amazing and life changing happened. (Although it was several months later before I would remember it)

My mum who by now is bed bound with her spine and lungs riddled with cancer and day by day her morphine is being increased says to my brother and sister to move around one to let me in.

My mum continued to time and shift us around one by one for the rest of the evening, gently encouraging everyone to take turns. (it makes me smile because our power groups are very much based on every one having an equal amount of time to speak – mum you are my inspiration)

Then I saw and heard the fair rule that had always been evident in our childhood. Mum had always had a strong fair rule, she had always given us all exactly the same amount of money for Christmas and birthdays and the same amount of school trips because she was determined we would never feel excluded and now around the hospital bed she was giving us a fair amount of time.

So why is it that I felt excluded and why did I grow up thinking I wasn’t good enough?

Why did she have to die before I could feel in my heart the love that was always there.

I remember saying “I know I am loved and yet I never feel loved, why is that?

Well mum you will be pleased to know that in those 10 years since you have been gone I have spent those years learning about how we listen.

I have developed my skills and I would have loved the conversations we could have now.

I know we get to talk now through my letters and my writing but I would do anything right now to hold you in my arms and tell you how much I love and value you the lessons you taught me.

Thank you for sharing with me before you went

As we talked mum said “She was sorry she hadn’t ever asked me about my work, my career or my business.” She explained that she was jealous and she had convinced herself that the ‘right’ thing to do was be at home with the family and yet she had wanted to work.

Due to dyslexia and lack of confidence in her own handwriting she had avoided applying for work that required an application form. That in itself prevented her from doing more of what she loved and it prevented this world from tuning into her full potential.

That information made sense of so many conversations – I now understand that when I felt criticised you were challenging me to do more than you because you saw me as better than you and yet I saw you better than me.

I now understand why you were so insistent on making me practice my handwriting over and over and to walk with books on my head to keep my posture. It wasn’t because you were disappointed in me but because you were disappotinted you had not had that kind of support in your life. You wanted me to do more. You saw my potential before I did.

And when you asked if I had heard Paige read recently you were not judging me for being a poor parent you would just worried and wanted to be sure she got the help she deserved.

I had put you on a pedestal and constantly felt like I had failed as a mother. I measured myself against you.

I had failed to keep my marriage together  and you had Dad were married for 40 years.

I had always worked full time as a single mum and married mum and it felt like you had dedicated your life to us.

I felt guilty because I didn’t listen to my children read as often as I thought you did with us.

All I had ever wanted was to make you proud and be a good mum.

I will always be grateful for those last few days when I finally had the chance to ask you how you did it all. It was such a relief to discover that most of the fun things I remembered were only carried out during the school holidays.

I had been killing myself trying to be the all singing all dancing mum gluing, sticking and baking as many nights as possible. Always feeling a failure if I was exhausted and couldn’t be bothered.

I was instantly able to take the pressure of myself as a mum and enjoy the moments I did have.

Your last day

We smiled and held hands, by now the morphine dose was quite high, it was like you were a little drunk and as the nurse articulately washed your hair you had no choice but to allow someone to take care of you. You chuckled like a little girl and said “I feel like the queen”

You were excited to be going to the Hospice tomorrow and looking forward to your first cigarette in weeks and what I learned in that moment is that the dream of what can be was as powerful as the experience itself.

You never made it to the hospice that night you slipped away and yet knowing there was something to look forward to I believe that made your last day better.

I am still so impressed that you pushed on past Dawn’s birthday (29th Nov) to ensure you didn’t die on that day and you knew you couldn’t die on Carl’s (5th Dec) and even though I said it was okay to let go on my birthday you didn’t listen to me. Instead on the 30th November you let go.

Even in death you were thinking of the impact of your actions on others.

Mum I will always wish you and I had known about these listening skills sooner and that I had been able to convey to you while you were alive just how much I love you and the difference you made to me. I will always wish I could have shared with you the power of trusting that all as it should be and that worrying about what might be or wasn’t takes away the moments we have right now.

That last night together motivates me daily to do my best work and live my best life – always remembering that I add value both at home and work and therefore both require my equal attention.

I know you live on in me.

I know you push me every day to get this book written and to sell more places for my events because you also know that without these skills I would and did for some years repeat the same patterns with your grand-daughter Paige.

paige and I 64_n

We made it through eventually albeit it a little messy

I know if you had been here to support us, Paige probably would have made the transition through teens without the need to self-harm when she did not have the words to express her fear.

You would have listened to her without the guilt I carried in my heart.

You would have done what you always did and I did not always appreciate.

It isn’t fair

I realise now that you always had the intention to love and treat us fairly. I thought fair meant treating us the same which probably came about because that is what you often said.

You gave us the same amount of time around the bed, you gave us the same amount of money for birthdays and Christmas’s and you sent us on the same amount of school holidays.

I now know that fair now does not always mean the same and that life is shit sometimes and things change and it isn’t fair that you had to die before I learned to feel the power of your love.

As I write my first book I find myself connected to you in a way I never thought possible. The first 90,000 words were all the things I never told you about how I felt because I didn’t know how to tell you I was unhappy without making you unhappy or cross. The final book will be a tribute to you and what I hear now about our relationship now that I have eradicated the drama from my story.

Today I know you would be proud of me and it breaks my heart you had to die before I could hear your love and feel our connection.

It was only with pending death either of us had the courage and the conviction to calm our internal fears and listen with compassion in our hearts.

You gave me purpose

Today I spend my time sharing with others practical tools to hear, understand and value the relationships that support them to work, learn and love at their very best.

Sister Time

Sister Time

I know you are watching over us and you are very proud of us all. I know you would love the way the women in our family our now pulling together and supporting each other in the way only women can and that I have finally learned how to enjoy family gatherings and find my place.

I know you will be glad that I have friends that I lean on and I don’t try and do it all myself and I know you will be happy that we appreciate the men in our lives for supporting us in their own unique way.

I know that you will be smiling that Carl kept his promise and didn’t let Dad turn into a grumpy old man. I know you will be happy that he has remarried and has found love again because without love what do we truly have.

Thank you to my sister in law for never giving up and for always inviting me to the party - I know it took me a while to learn how to have fun again x

Thank you to my brother and sister in law for never giving up and for always inviting me to the party – I know it took me a while to learn how to have fun again x

Happy Mother’s Day Mum – I love you with all my heart and today in your memory I will do my best work and keep my heart open to every opportunity to change the way the world listens




For those interested I had 12th and 13th March in my diary for a Do, Delegate or Ditch retreat.

Due to being busy writing the book I forgot to market it. My mum’s birthday is the 10th March and so Mark, Liam and I have decided it would be wrong not to open our home and heart up that weekend and share with you the tools that can and will transform the way you hear those that matter to your success and happiness.

Please check this link for more information about Do Delegate or Ditch a 60 day programme that helps you make sense of why you have not been able to make good decisions all of the time and what needs to happen to work, learn and love at your best.

We normally ask you to invest £797 for this 60 day package but for this week only the package is just £597 and £100 per person will be donated to Southern Domestic Abuse Service – because sometimes you have to stop listening and get out and they do such a great job supporting people in our local area to make that brave leap.

Don’t let money get in the way – we can take payments in instalments.Talk to us now.
About the Author – Sheryl Andrews – The Strength and Solution Detective

how to improve listening skills

Sheryl Andrews, Founder of Step by Step Listening, is well known for her fast speaking and her passion to make things happen. But what many of you may not know is that in private behind closed doors she was also no stranger to lapses in self belief and an overwhelming sense of not being good enough.

That was until she conquered her sensitivity to criticism and her fear of not being liked.

Today, Sheryl runs safe to speak retreats where you can develop resources and skills to gain clarity of what you want and confidence to speak and be heard.

Fancy a virtual coffee and chat, then please feel free to book a complimentary clarity and confidence session. or SAS Detective TV

Don’t know how call her now….+44(0)1329 286648

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