The other day I was made painfully aware of a personal shortcoming. I am sure it’s not the only one I have, but it is a biggie.
I was advised, that under extreme stress, I am not always my usual likeable self. Apparently, I become a bit intense and people around me feel some pressure. This is not ideal, and it is a blind spot. I would have said I am firm, and focussed, but I would not have thought that people would consider me less likeable. As you can imagine, this was difficult to hear, and quite disconcerting to realise it was true… The fact is, though, if it is true for someone, then it is true. We can’t shift responsibility in these situations.
I state this bluntly and honestly, because that is my style, and because I am not accustomed to looking for excuses when there are problems. I am more of a forward thinker, so my usual approach is one of “Yeah, ok, so what can I do about that?”. I forgive quickly, and I move on. No grudges, no hurt, no lingering passive-aggressive junk. It’s simply not my style. And in the case of an issue with others in the workplace, when I deal with it, I tend to hit it head on and then expect my colleagues to also robustly and confidently say “Yeah, ok, so what can I do about that?”
But my colleagues are not all built the same was as I am, and that is OK. In fact, it’s probably a very good thing! Diversity is strength, and in my case, it is having people around me who can point out my blind spots.
What I know is that my tendency in this regard is both a strength; and a weakness. It is a strength when I am dealing with myself, or when others are dealing with me. But it is a weakness when I am dealing with others.
I can take a hard, straight hit, and not even waver. I like truth, and I like it often and open. People who can work with this, never have to be frustrated or concerned that they need to politicise a message to not offend me. The down side, is that when I know that people are not telling me everything, I can become curious about WHY they are not telling me everything.
Others, who are not built like me, need a different approach. And that approach in the past, has not always been my strength, it is a learned behaviour and it requires cautious words, timing, gentleness and space. Space to think, and space to work through embarrassment or fear. For someone as robust as I, it’s a different set of gears, a different feel completely. And, apparently, I have not always easy been very good at making the adjustment.
So, in my usual style, “Yeah, ok, so what am I going to do about that?” Here is the list:
- Thank the person for their courage in confronting the issue, and risking my response.
- Take it on the chin – no excuses, no shifting blame anywhere. I can only deal with it if I own it completely. If I shift blame, I disempower myself.
- See myself through their eyes – honestly imagine how my actions and attitudes must look to them (not tempered with my view of my intentions at the time – a purely objective look at how I must have appeared in their eyes.
- Feed that back to them humbly and ask if I have understood the impact of my actions correctly.
- Apologise, humbly and completely.
- Commit to a change in behaviour
- Seek out an accountability relationship, where I put in place a benevolent critic. Someone with authority and permission to give me a tight slap if they see similar behaviour – or, even better – warn me if they see a situation developing so I can choose wisely.
- Be constantly mindful of the change I am implementing so that the habit is broken and a new habit created.
It works, and it is working. If you find yourself in any similar kind of situation, best of luck. I hope these thoughts add value.