I’d like to introduce you to SARA. No, she’s not my new friend on Facebook. SARA is an acronym for:

  • Shock or Surprise
  • Anger
  • Rejection
  • Acceptance

When people receive feedback that differs from their self-perception, they very often go through SARA – a process similar to grieving.

If you’ve ever coached or supervised anyone, you probably have met SARA. If you’re a breathing, fallible human being, you probably have seen evidence of SARA in your own reaction to feedback. (Personally, I am very acquainted with SARA, having visited her many, many times.)

So, what do you do when confronted by SARA, either in yourself or in someone you’re working with?

  • Acknowledge the emotions. You can’t get past SARA until you recognize what’s really going on.
  • Understand that SARA isn’t an uncommon, weird reaction. The problem lies in hanging out with SARA too long.
  • Focus on the positive qualities of the people who gave you the (horrible and totally unfair) feedback.
  • Temporarily suspend disbelief. Even if your initial reaction is, “that is so wrong!,” ask yourself, “what if it were true?”
  • Face your “reasons” (okay, excuses) for rejecting the feedback; among my personal favorites: “They are so much worse than me.” “My job makes me do that.” “I used to do that, but I’ve changed.” “Yes, it’s all true, and I don’t care.”
  • Stay fact-based. Stewing over it by yourself is never a good idea, unless you’re a fan of ulcers. If you’re supporting someone through SARA, help re-frame perceptions into facts. If SARA’s your constant companion, find a coach to help you separate reality from fiction.

Hearing things we don’t want to hear is difficult, no doubt about it. If you’re in that situation, SARA may drop by. We’d love to hear your ideas about how to boot her to the curb when the time is right.

Have a question or want some input from Humanergy about this topic? Contact us and we’ll get right back to you!