Today someone shared this bit of wisdom with me during a discussion about the art of speaking the truth when giving feedback: You have to speak enough truth to be authentic and have enough grace to be kind; the balance between the two determines your effectiveness. Wow. Succinct, accurate, timely.
Our conversation wasn’t related to teaching cycling, but all I could think about was the 5:30pm cycling class that I subbed the night before, the third sub class in two days. I was tired and hungry, and when only two riders showed I felt like cancelling. Yep, me, the one who gives pep talks on “teaching to one rider like you have a class of 50 riders!” And although I believe that is what we owe our riders, I struggled to feel it last night. Especially because one of the two riders 1) picked the only bike that squeaks out of 20 bikes; and 2) is in the top three of our regular riders with the worst form you can imagine, but WILL NOT change.
The last thing I was in the mood for was to watch him ignore my coaching, bounce in the saddle because of high cadence with no resistance, shrugged shoulders, locked elbows, etc. – you know exactly what I’m describing.
I tried to stay focused on the other rider, a young woman who I met for the first time and who was nailing it, but it was a struggle. A true struggle. I can’t print the things that were running through my mind, and then I asked myself: What are you so angry about? I pulled out all of my mental tricks to shift from negative space to positive space: visualize the room you want, the perfect gig, a room full of energized riders. But in the end, what saved me from “coaching” him in what surely would have sounded like criticism, was empathy. I kept reminding myself that he showed up, he was trying and he’s a really nice guy.
As I listened to my colleague today, I was reminded of the power we instructors have to either hurt people or help people. We are all human and have bad days for sure, but I reminded myself that there is never an excuse to take your bad day out on someone else. Truth and Grace. Hmmmm…..I’ve been considering a tattoo…
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