Separating Fact from Opinion

A young dancer’s days are spent listening to other people’s voices. Teachers, mentors, artistic directors, partners, choreographers, and many parents all talk to the young dancer about their dancing. Some feedback they give is work-focused, like corrections on technique and insights to build artistry. Other pieces of feedback are opinions, like comments on your appearance or work ethic.

Factual feedback is golden: it’s the kind of information you can write down in a journal and meditate on on future days. It’s information that you can *act* on and it’s about your dancing. 

Opinion-based feedback is much more personal in nature. It might be about your work ethic or how you look or something innate to you, like your intelligence. It’s information about YOU, not about your dancing. This type of feedback, when negative, can be destructive; it can erode your sense of who you are and your self-worth.

Negative, opinion-based feedback has no place in the studio. Ever. 

But people offer it all the time. Trying to get teachers and artistic directors to not use opinion-based feedback is … well, it’s impossible. So let’s skip that and instead try to shift your perspective. Try thinking about distancing who you are from how you dance.

Dancers often look at me with puzzled expressions when I suggest that it’s important to start to separate themselves from their dancing. “But…I am a dancer. When I dance, it’s me. It’s the same thing.”

I hear you. I felt the same way when I was dancing. But here’s the thing: there IS a difference.

YOU are you. Your dancing is something that you DO. It’s very, very personal, for sure. And yes, your body is you. But imagine this: Imagine someone criticizing your handwriting. How deeply personal would you take that criticism? Is your handwriting YOU?

My guess is it wouldn’t hurt you the way a negative comment about your dancing would. So use that idea as a model for how to start separating your dancing from who you are as a person. It’s a long process, but one that will really help you move past the negative impact of opinion-based feedback.

Also, when you get feedback, try to separate it in your mind into fact-based and opinion-based. Hold onto the fact-based stuff: write it down, meditate on it, use it.

If the opinion-based feedback is negative and/or is not connected to the work (i.e. your dancing), evaluate how helpful that information really is to your progress. Maybe there’s a “fact jewel” in the muck- if so, fish it out and try to use it. If not, let it go.

When you can hear an opinion as an opinion, you can decide how to respond to it.  Opinions that do not move you forward on your path of progress and understanding are not worth much. Give yourself permission to toss them away.

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