This is what happened: When I was at Outward Bound, "Jonas" was an off-the-wall instructor who had a good heart, bad habits, and (in my opinion) a skewed view of the world. He was caught smoking (a big no-no on a non-smoking property), he enjoyed a bit of pot - ok, a lot of pot, and the unforgivable - was dominant and oppressive in his communication style.

Oh yeah - did I mention he was my boyfriend at the time? Yup. It was going to be a challenging conversation.

I did all the background work, analysed the situation, looked at the issue from both perspectives. I meditated, reflected, asked opinions, purged my fear and angst. I prepared my constructive feedback sandwiched with positive observations. I rehearsed a distilled cut-through sentence to grab his attention and let the impact of his behaviour be known. It went something like, "I respect and appreciate your right to make choices, and if you keep making these types of choices we can't work together anymore."

Then the day came and my well-rehearsed speech rolled off my trembling tongue. Ta da.

His face buckled and rumbled alike an alien frog. Something I said was causing a major disconnect.

In response to my statement, "Smoking pot is illegal" he said, "So is planting weeds in the Murrumbidgee river corridor."

What the....? How is that in any way relevant? How can the two even compare? (to clarify, he was referring to the imported species of snapdragon flowers I had planted in the garden outside my house). Planting non-natives in the corridor was indeed illegal, but my house was beside the corridor, not in it. Boy this still pi**es me off ten years later!)

So here he was now pressing my buttons: he was clearly not listening to anything I was telling him, deliberately not hearing my perspective or understanding the great ethical dilemma he was forcing me into - remain faithful and say nothing and thereby ditch my own ethics of honesty and anti-pot sentiment.

My view of the world was in complete clash with his: he saw environmental vandalism as far worse than pot-smoking (which in his opinion was a peaceful benign drug that should be legal anyway). He just didn't get my moral dilemma. In fact, he refused to acknowledge or paraphrase anything I was saying.

Stalemate. Feedback failure.

And of course this is exactly where traditional management methods and leadership strategies ultimately fail: when we imagine we can force our view of the word on someone else, when we believe we can talk someone into behaving the way we want them to, then we are doomed to fail.

The world doesn't work like that.

It does work like this:

When I am in control of my vibrational alignment, when I know what I want and focus on that with joyful appreciation, when I hold that picture of what I truly desire - how I want to feel most of all - it creates a vortex of attraction that lines up people, things, opportunities, and situations that resonate.

So if I find myself in a destructive relationship with a pot-smoking cantankerous bully boyfriend, my work is NOT to try and change HIM - my work is to change MY thoughts, MY feelings.

I make peace with what is. Instead of beating myself up about my failure in judgment of character and picking yet another dud boyfriend, I accept that all my choices are in my ultimate good (even if takes me ten years to see the benefits and be able to write about it without too much angst). In making peace with what is, I can ask, "Well what do I want instead?" and I start to revel in the essence of what I want: a relationship with a man who respects and shares my value, someone who can communicate like a sensible person, someone who is healthy and respects their body, someone who likes gardening! And I left the space open for that to be Jonas. Or not.

So what happened? I resigned from my role (that's a whole other post about being bullied, not standing up for myself and other leadership lessons) - and this gave me tremendous relief. From there I kept flowing the desire of what I wanted in my relationship and the best feeling place was away from Jonas. So we broke up. Six months later I met my honey, Rob. He doesn't like gardening much, but he loves our chickens and has run three marathons with me.

Coach's challenge:
What about you? When has feedback really worked well? When hasn't it and why? Could you make peace with what is and focus on the essence of what you want instead?

Author's Bio: 

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Author Zoe Routh works with women in business to enhance their personal effectiveness and leadership capacity for global effect. For free tips on how to become a more effective leader that will save you time, money, energy, and stress, go to