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Mining for Gold

Mining for Gold


How to find nuggets of helpful feedback in catty comments.

This is Part 4 of a multi-part series on judgmental comments in the belly dance world. You don’t have to listen in order, but if you want to start from the beginning, check out Walking on Eggshells.

Earlier in this series, you learned about the danger of judgmental comments, and how to use the eight red flags to determine whether it’s helpful feedback phrased badly, or a pattern of trying to gain status and attention.

You are never obligated to listen to inappropriate feedback.

But sometimes there are kernels of helpful information mixed in with all the cattiness. And they can actually help you improve your dancing – if you choose to mine for them.

How can you take away the valuable nuggets, and leave the rest behind?

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This was professionally transcribed, but it probably still has some errors. If you catch any, drop me a line at I’d love to hear from you!

So let’s say you’ve encountered a judgmental comment, either about your dancing or somebody else’s, and use the eight red flags to determine whether this is helpful feedback phrased badly, or the speaker’s catty attempt to build herself up by tearing other people down.

Regardless of the speaker’s motivation, sometimes there are kernels of helpful feedback mixed in with all the cattiness, if you’re willing to mine for them. So if you choose to do that, here’s how to take away the valuable parts, and leave the rest behind.

The first thing to do is remember your boundaries. Keep in mind that you are never obligated to entertain unsolicited feedback other than from your teacher or mentor. No matter how good the speaker’s intentions are, it doesn’t have to be your problem. So don’t ever feel like you have to engage with those comments. It is 100% okay to just let them roll on by. And you’re never obligated to follow advice from any source, whether you asked for it or not. At the end of the day, this is your dance and you’re the gatekeeper.

Step two is to make it impersonal. Comments made about you or someone you know can hit closer to home than criticism of a stranger. So imagine that both the speaker and the dancer that’s being commented on are strangers living far away, in a different dance community, maybe even in a different country. Maybe even give them different dance names.

Step three is to rephrase the criticism as a neutral observation. So let’s say you heard something like “She was stomping around like an elephant.” Rephrase that to, “Her steps were audible.” There’s nothing positive or negative or judgmental in that, it’s just a fact. Or let’s say you heard “She looked constipated.” You could translate that to, “There was visible tension in her face.” Now, sometimes this isn’t possible because there are opinion or matters of taste involved. In that situation, restate it as a third party opinion in as cool and detached a manner as you can. “She fluttered around the stage like the Energizer Bunny,” could be translated into, “The speaker expressed the opinion that an excessive amount of traveling was used.” And if that sounds stiff or weird, that’s because it’s supposed to. We’re stripping away all of the emotional trappings to take the judgment out of it.

Fourth, ask yourself if you agree with the comment. Even if it is appropriate solicited feedback from a mentor you trust, you might just disagree. That’s okay. You’re an artist too, and your personal taste matters. And if you don’t agree, you don’t have to incorporate that feedback into your own dancing.

Fifth, and if this is something that’s overheard rather than something that’s about you specifically, ask if this comment actually applies to you. When we hear someone criticized for something, we often rush to assume that we’re guilty of the same transgression ourselves. But that is not always true. In class, when I tell some folks “Make sure your chest is lifted,” I notice that everybody in the room lifts their chest up even more, even the ones that are already fine. Some people end up overcorrecting, even though that comment didn’t apply to them at all. So this step is to assess whether you have substantial room to grow in that area, or if you’re doing fine. And if you’re having trouble gaging this, get help from a teacher or mentor. Sometimes an outside opinion from someone you trust helps a lot.

Six, ask if this is a priority for you right now. So let’s say that you agree with the neutral observation behind the comment, and that you agree that it does apply to you. That doesn’t mean you have to make it a priority. You are the boss of your own dance, and you get to decide where this item goes on your to-do list.

And seven is to find a constructive suggestion. For that stomping around like elephants comment, maybe you just need to practice taking lighter steps. If someone described you or someone else as looking constipated, then maybe you need to spend some attention budget on relaxing your face, or thinking happy thoughts at the audience. For flitting around the stage like the Energizer Bunny, maybe the suggestion is to spend more time in place, or to incorporate more pauses. And again, getting help from a teacher or mentor can really help with this process.

So let’s summarize what we’ve talked about today. Even judgmental comments that are full of red flags can sometimes have a kernel of helpful feedback. You’re never obligated to take that feedback, even when it’s coming from an appropriate comment, but if you choose to, you can mine that catty comment for the valuable information. Remember your boundaries. Make it impersonal. Rephrase it in a neutral way. Ask if you agree with that comment. Ask yourself if that applies to you, and if it’s a priority for you, and then find a constructive suggestion.

If you can’t do ALL of those things, then you’re not in a good place to act on this comment. So you should drop it.


Your Turn

Have you ever found helpful nuggets in judgmental comments?

Or has filtering out the negativity been more trouble than it’s worth?

Got a question or topic that you’d like me to talk about on the show?

I would love to hear from you.

Leave a comment below, or better yet, leave me a short voice message. Maybe I’ll even play it on the air!


Want More?

If you’re having trouble deciding how much of these comments to take to heart, check out Personal Style Snafus.

This DIY course is designed to help you stop listening to your “shoulds”, and identify what you really value in the dance, so you can channel your growth accordingly

Check It Out 


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