In the immortal words of Butthole Surfers’ Pepper, “you never know just how you look through other people’s eyes.”
One of the challenges of reading written feedback about the trips I guide is having all of my initial fears about guiding reflected back at me in negative reviews.
I went back to school in 2012-13 to learn the hard skills of outdoor adventure tourism, without any real intention of guiding. I had a half-formed plan of writing and photographing for an outdoors magazine and wanted to be able to manage myself. I also didn’t think I had the big personality I associated with the outdoor adventure guiding world. I am introverted, generally best one-on-one getting to know someone. And even then it’s occasionally easier for me if someone else starts the conversation and then I jump in.
When I fell into guiding last summer because of a hole in the schedule, I surprised myself how much I enjoyed it. Hard work and long days to be sure but rewarding. I met and guided some wonderful women.
This summer I’ve received face-to-face feedback that included thanks for being open and honest; it allowed someone to share more of herself. I’ve also received written feedback that I seemed distant and that I didn’t want to be on trip. I have to assume that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and people’s experiences with me will average out somewhere in between.
Isn’t that life though?
In the corporate world I had longer than a weekend to get to know my clients, my staff, my vendors. There was often ample opportunity to provide and receive feedback. The chance to develop a relationship is different in outdoor tourism and I’ll eventually come to terms with that. In the meantime, I’d like to think I treat my outdoors clients with respect and kindness, that I’m a safe guide, and that I am myself so they’re getting the authentic me, for better or for worse.
I’ll take what I’ve read and heard and adjust accordingly for the upcoming trips. Wherever you’re at in your life and career here are some short tips on receiving feedback:
- A certain amount of self-awareness is required. Acknowledge all the good, bad, and indifferent feelings that crop up with receiving a particular piece of feedback. Evaluate them and then let them go. Dwelling makes it hard to move on.
- Ask clarifying questions if you get the chance.
- Take ownership for the pieces you can control. Let go of the pieces you can’t. Don’t argue them.
- Give thanks for the learning opportunity.