Ouch. That Hurts! Turning Disappointment into Inspiration

September 10th, 2012 by Laura Longley

Sometimes we get feedback that is hurtful. An experience I had recently helped me to see that this painful feedback was reinforcing what my heart had already been trying to tell me, if I had only paid attention. The rejection I experienced was the final message from the Universe that I needed to be able to see that I was going down the wrong path.

Over the past couple of years I have presented brown bag workshops as a contractor for an employee assistance program (EAP). It didn’t pay much, but I thought it was a good way to get exposure for my counseling and coaching practice. In reality I never had a single new client come to me this way.

I never particularly enjoyed doing these workshops. I didn’t get to choose the topic, and I had to use the materials sent to me by the EAP company, which usually were pretty sparse. I would then spend an hour or more preparing with examples and maybe even doing some research.

There were times when the group from whom I was presenting was small, that I did enjoy the actual presentation. I do love having the conversation with others, and with the smaller groups people felt freer to participate.

Even so, each time I was called upon to do one of these workshops I would think about how this activity really didn’t really serve me, and I should just say no. My heart was reminding me that I didn’t enjoy these workshops the majority of the time – and there wasn’t even good monetary compensation to make up for the lack of enjoyment. But in the end I always ended up doing it anyway.

The last few times I have been asked to do these workshops, things never seemed to go smoothly. One time I could never get hold of the contact at the company where I was to be presenting and the session had to be canceled. The next time the EAP company asked me to do four sessions in one day, but spread out over eight hours. This would have used up my entire day, and at a rate that I would have made doing two client sessions. Still, I said yes.

The final straw was when I was asked to do a session just ten days before the company wanted the presentation. Typically these workshops were set up several months in advance. Again, I ran into the problem of not being able to get in touch with my contact at the company where I was to present in order to confirm arrangements such as handouts, projector, and where I was to go.

I notified the EAP company when it was three days before the presentation and I hadn’t been contacted, and finally the day before the presentation I said I would have to cancel since I still hadn’t heard back from the company where the workshop was to be held.

At that time I was feeling that I just didn’t want to do this. When I hadn’t immediately heard back from the contact at the client company I silently wished that they wouldn’t call back so that I wouldn’t have to do the session. And my wish seemed to be coming true.

The EAP company was all in a fluster about me wanting to cancel. They said the client company had this meeting planned for months (as mentioned I was only asked to participate ten days earlier) and that they had people coming in from out of town. Ultimately they got someone at the client company to call me just 24 hours before the workshop was to take place.

The woman who called from the client company was terse to the point of rudeness on the phone. Her implication was that there was no reason I should be so concerned about not having had any contact with the company, and of course they had everything under control and ready to go. My heart sank as I felt the confirmation that I should not be doing this session in my interaction with this woman.

The next day I arrived at the appointed time to do my hour-long workshop. The receptionist took me to the meeting room, where the day-long meeting of sixteen HR professionals was already in progress with another presentation. When I entered the room no one came over to me. There was no place for me to sit. So I just stood to the side of the room, unacknowledged.

Eventually one woman got up from her seat and approached me. She told me it would be just a few minutes before it was my turn, and then went back to her seat. When the other presentation wrapped up there was a delay while someone had to take a USB drive to another floor to get the PowerPoint presentation. During that break no one spoke to me or welcomed me.

Finally all the pieces were in place for my presentation on effective communication. I went through the materials in the slides and the handouts, offering my own examples and experiences. When it came to some exercises at the end of the handout, the group chose instead to have side conversations amongst themselves.

As you can imagine, this wasn’t a very pleasant experience for me. I felt uncomfortable and disrespected by this group. And it got worse as I began reviewing the evaluations that had been filled out by the participants. In almost three years of doing these workshops I had never gotten such awful scores. In fact, I almost always got great scores (this ego stroking was part of what kept me coming back for more).

My emotions were all over the place. I started at my favorite place of “not good enough,” feeling excluded and unfairly judged. I quickly went to anger as I felt that some of the comments just weren’t true, and that the materials provided for me were not adequate. Then I felt shame about the scores I had received, and embarrassment that the EAP company would have to see them. A most unpleasant series of feelings.

And, finally, I saw this experience for what it was: the Universe hitting me over the head with the fact that this activity no longer served me, if indeed it ever had.

I have something of value to offer that is not being shown to its best advantage in the circumstances offered by the EAP workshops. I deserve to be treated with respect. I want to work with people who are interested in what I have to say. And I want to be fairly compensated for my contribution.

The next day I emailed the EAP company and canceled the all-day sessions next month. I know that I will not accept any more assignments from them.

At this point I still have not submitted for payment for that awful session. I know it is because of the shame I feel about the scores I received on the evaluations. But there is also a piece of me that feels I already received what I was meant to get from doing that workshop – I had the wakeup call to quit doing these sessions.

What do you think? Should I submit to be paid, or just let it go?


4 Responses

  1. Tosti Caroline says:

    Dear Laura
    You are the only one who knows the answer. Both can be justified. Check what your heart is telling you about this one.
    Take care

    • Laura Longley LauraLongley says:

      Thank you Caroline. It’s true that I am the one who has to decide. And getting input from others can sometimes present another perspective that I hadn’t considered. I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

  2. Denise Abbott says:

    Please send your invoice ASAP. You prepared and presented a professional lecture. Now you can wrap it up just as professionally. Accept this payment for work completed.

    • Laura Longley LauraLongley says:

      Thank you, Denise! You are absolutely right. I am allowing my shame (for something I didn’t even do wrong) to skew my perspective. What a good lesson for me. Thank you for helping me to see it.

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