I took a knife skills class last Sunday and discovered I must be one of the most inept people in the world when it comes to handling a chef’s knife. Thankfully a dear friend was in the class too; she provided moral support.
At one point in the class, a student told me: “I don’t hold out any hope for you. You’re never going to get this.” She, another baby boomer like me, was totally serious – not one grain of humor or teasing in her comment. I must say the comment caught me a bit off guard. I didn’t react defensively, but I didn’t want to ignore the hurtful nature of her comment either. Using a kind tone, I responded that she would not make a good teacher, that good teaching required encouragement.
In retrospect, I wish I had responded differently. Trying to keep up with what the instructor was saying, I didn’t take time to consider how best to respond. Over the years, I have learned a great deal from Brené Brown’s work on shame. I realized that although the woman’s comment was shaming, my response was unintentionally that way too. Even though I made the comment without anger, my statement was about her as a person, not about her behavior.
I didn’t mean to imply that the woman wasn’t a good person, only that her comment wasn’t helpful. Instead, I wish I had said something like: “Your comment is not constructive; encouragement would be much more helpful. I’ve always found that my best teachers were those who encouraged me and made success seem possible.” I probably won’t have a chance to circle back with that student and do it differently, but I will keep this lesson in mind when criticized in the future.
Ironically, the woman’s comment was instructive in other ways. It made me realize how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned from Brené. Years ago, the perfectionist I was would have felt ashamed; I would not have dared to take another cooking class. I realized the woman’s comment said a great deal more about her and her unhappiness than it did about me.
Brené has taught me to be vulnerable and move beyond my comfort zone. I really had fun in the knife skills class, so I’ve dared greatly in signing up for another cooking class. Heaven help us all. 😉