First 200 Bad Drawings

There are 200 bad drawings inside every comic book artist.

Just as there are an estimated 1,000 bad words/turns of phrase inside of every writer.

And there are a certain number of below quality (or poor quality) teaching or training experiences inside of every teacher and trainer.

There are 1,500 bad jump shots inside every free throw shooter. As there are multiple bad layups inside of every basketball player.

In professional fields from comedy to athletics, the audience accepts that there is a curved path that the performer has to walk, from being inexperienced to being experienced.

What the audience doesn’t know is where the performer is at on the path from being inexperienced to being experienced, which complicates the audience’s judgment of the performance.

And can warp its feedback.

But the thing is, once the performer gets all the inexperience out of their system, and successfully works their way through the curve from inexperienced to experienced, the performer won’t care what the performance “looks like” to the audience.

The performer won’t care about the feedback about their performance from the audience either.

Self-Select Out of the Pool

Here’s an idea:

When you hear an idea that doesn’t appeal to you, doesn’t interest you, or that doesn’t resonate with you, merely say (either internally to yourself or externally to the presenting party) “That’s not for me.”

Then add this other part on.

“And that’s ok.”

Then, either move on physically from the room or emotionally from the interaction.

This works better as a coping mechanism for handling ideas, concepts, and thoughts that we find to be personally repulsive, than engaging in feedback processes where you seek to destroy the other person’s sense of self-worth and seek to shame them into silence.

If it’s not for you, then stop wasting your time (and the other party’s) and self-select out of the pool of interaction.

Do this so that other people, for who the idea is appealing, can self-select into the pool.

This approach works better than staying in the pool of interaction, exercising the vain hope that the messaging underneath the interaction will resonate for you—or be relevant for you—at some point in time in the future, and at the end of the interaction, engaging in the politics of personal destruction via the use of weaponized negative feedback.

Feedback You Let In

There are two kinds of feedback: constructive and negative.

Constructive feedback serves to grow another human being. Constructive feedback serves to provide examples and metaphors that tell a story that can resonate with another party.

Negative feedback serves to limit growth, hem in development, and ensure that the status quo doesn’t change too much. Negative feedback employs snark and cynicism to score rhetorical points but not to tell a story that resonates with the person hearing the feedback.

Negative feedback takes the posture and attitude that a relationship is merely transactional and that neither party owes each other much more than maybe a good time.

Constructive feedback is always oriented toward tomorrow; oriented toward realigning minds and growth toward relationship and development.

Be careful which form of feedback you’re encouraging on your team.

And which form of feedback you’re allowing in your mind and heart.

What is the Work

Generating the courage to confront someone else’s bad behavior is tough.

But it’s not the work.

Creating a plan to confront someone’s bad behavior, rather than confronting and hoping that the act of doing so will be enough to create the change you want, is difficult.

But it’s not the work.

Confronting the person who has behaved badly, executing your plan, and then watching their reactions—and responding accordingly—is hard.

But it’s not the work.

All those actions are part of the process of getting to the goal of growing our courage to confront bad behavior.

The process is not the work.

The work is going through the process, getting to the goal (your goal, not the goal of the other party), getting knowledge from that experience, integrating that learning into what your actions, behaviors, and responses will be the next time a similar situation arises in the future, and then letting the moment go.

That’s the work.

By the way, the work is the thing that’s always on the line. Not us.

[Strategy] If I Were You…

“If I were you…” is the worst beginning to providing feedback to anyone.

The statement merely says, if the person giving the feedback were the person receiving the feedback then this is what the feedback would be.

This is a poorly considered bit of critical shorthand, because if the person giving the feedback were the person receiving the feedback, then nothing would change.

This is a poorly considered bit of persuasive shorthand, because if the person giving the feedback were the person receiving the feedback, then that person wouldn’t be persuaded to change in any meaningful way.

This is a poorly considered method of shortcutting through another’s experience to get to “empathy” and to get around the other party’s defenses.

The thing is, if the person giving the feedback were the person receiving the feedback, they would be acting in the same way that the person receiving the feedback is.

Better to say, “If my brain were in your situation” or “If my behavior could be inserted in between you and the problem,” and be done with it.

[Opinion] What To Do With A Barking Dog

Nothing is more annoying than a persistently barking dog, whether you are traveling in a Persian caravan across the desert or you are a mid-thirties single woman in Manhattan in the 90’s.

Desert of Human Interaction Quote

The majority of dogs bark, because of an instinct to do so in situations they perceive as being hostile to the community, or the pack. The dissonance of noise between parties in conflict, surrounding the feedback that many people get in a communication situation, can come off like the endless barking of dogs.

And yet, if we stop screaming at the dogs of conflict to “shut up” long enough to recognize what is actually happening in the conflict interaction. Or, we can decide that the barking is pointless noise, based in fear, apathy, avoidance and accommodation, and then we can move on from the conflict.

In the crowded desert of human interactions—or the empty desert of Manhattan—communication about the Truth of conflict, matters more than the noise around what we didn’t do, what we didn’t say or how we didn’t act, yesterday.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[Advice] How to Motivate Yourself

Conflicts arise (or get worse)—both internal and external—when motivation wanes.

Physician Heal Thyself

Because it is easier to do the wrong thing (sometimes the more convenient or expedient thing) than it is to do the right thing (sometimes the least convenient and hardest thing) in a conflict, many people revert to the apathy, avoidance, or accommodation.

Motivation is the driver for change and better responses to interpersonal conflicts, but one of the questions we get asked is “Well Jesan, all this interpersonal conflict tactics stuff is great, but what about getting people motivated to actually do it?”

We point out that the motivational speaker and author Zig Ziglar, often made the point that motivation—much like showering—doesn’t last. And that you have to renew your motivation every day, in the same way that you shower every day.

We would make three additions to that assertion as well:

Our lives must have meaning first in order for us to get motivated to confront the issues and concerns that cause conflicts, the relationships that are “suboptimal” and the situations that make us frustrated. In the field of student development, this is called agency.

Our personalities must be resilient, able to take disappointment, failure and not achieving our goals the first time around. When there is resilience, motivation matters less, because the mindset changes from “I need to be motivated before I can confront a conflict in my life” to “I am resilient and know  I can get through this conflict with this other person and that’s my motivation.”

Our lives must be well balanced in all five areas of wellbeing: social, career, physical, financial and community. That balance means more than just a few percentage points of feeling good here balanced against a few percentage points of feeling bad there. Without well-balanced lives, a lack of motivation to change leads to emotional apathy and physical lethargy.

Organizations, from family (the world’s first corporation) to churches, have a responsibility to acknowledge and support the balance of wellbeing, appropriate feedback, and encouragement in the form of appropriate recognition and reward, for individuals who search for meaning in their work, play, volunteerism and worship.

Being successful at this task requires the founders, funders, owners and even contributors to those organizations, to start examining their own motivations a little closer.

Or else conflicts, crises, confrontations and aggressive behaviors will continue to demotivate those who could potentially courageously be motivated to attain new meaning when conflicts arise.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[Strategy] You Are Doing Great Things, I Know It…

Performance evaluations, feedback, criticism and “suggestions for improvement” in people’s performance all serve as ways to separate leaders from followers.


We had a conversation this week about caring (see here) and we keep coming back to the idea when we think about how leaders should encourage their followers’ hearts. Most of the time, people analyze what we do—as either leaders or followers—and then make judgments about our performance. Often this judgment is then equated with a person’s character, wisdom or ethics.

But organizations and institutions can’t—and don’t—care. Only people do. And in order to encourage people to continue to follow, leaders must care about the people that they are leading, enough to guide them through the necessary risks to execute the mission.

Performance evaluations, feedback, “suggestions for improvement,” criticism, and many other forms of feedback are often used as a cover for the vulnerability that really caring about followers requires.

“But what do you do if people aren’t doing the ‘right’ thing and screwing up the process?”

This question is a corporate variation on “How do you tell the truth in grace to someone?” and it’s an excellent one. Here are three ideas:

  • Know what you care about as a leader and why—Some leaders care about process more than people. If that’s the case, recognize and praise the process, rather than attempting to recognize and praise the person.
  • Be genuine with yourself as a leader—Some leaders struggle with self-awareness. But feedback, criticism and other forms of “improvement” lectures don’t work, and can often be seen as blameing and excuse making. Being genuine with yourself means care about what your role is before caring about your followers’ roles.
  • Seek to understand first—Some leaders are self-absorbed, narcissistic and vainglorious. Harsh sounding words, yes, but in a world where genuine recognition of others is the only way to effectively encourage a heartful followership, a leader must seek to understand their followers’ hearts—and care about them.

In the short run, caring about people and building relationships is the only way to go for a leader. Celebration and rituals, combined with the importance of symbols, done with authenticity and heartfelt pride in ones followers, can do more to cement long term growth than any amount of money, service development or process change.

Encouraging the heart requires caring about people and creating long term, value based relationships.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: