I was having coffee with a colleague recently. Someone I trust wholeheartedly.

We haven’t seen each other in months. If I am being honest, they had been a rocky couple of months for both of us professionally. As we were catching up he said, “I have been reading your content. Can I give you some feedback?”

I was so excited! Feedback is most valuable from the people we trust, and he is a wise friend. So I eagerly said yes. Then, he gave me the feedback.

All of the sudden I was sitting there with all of my baggage piled up around me. The feedback brought all of my “invisible” baggage right into focus.

It was in my body language, in my cracking voice, and in my desire to defend myself.

To be clear, it was kind feedback. It was given to help me with the precision of my message because this person believes in the power of my voice. And yet, it wasn’t what I needed, and therefore it wasn’t helpful.

So the question is, how do we deal with caring, trusted feedback that isn’t helpful?

Many of us fire back in defense. The feeling part of our brain immediately lets us know we are in danger and leads us to believe the other person meant us harm. Other times, we shrink and go along with the advice believing it’s the kind response, but in doing that we don’t honor ourselves.

There is a third option. It’s a vulnerable one. Let the person know why you aren’t in a place to hear what they are saying. You may or may not choose to tell them about your baggage. You do what’s right for you. In this case I did.

I believe that the stories I shared helped to alchemize some of my own pain. My hope is that it helped expand this person’s perspective.

Most importantly, we had a civil conversation about hard things, which seems to happen too infrequently these days.