Posted: December 16, 2020 in: Leadership Empowerment, Pain-2-Power, Personal Empowerment

Sometimes, It Isn’t About You

Human beings have an understandable habit that seems to be hardwired in our nervous systems.  When we are the object of someone’s scorn or anger or disappointment, we tend to immediately internalize it.  We feel scorned or attacked or judged.  And, all too often, we take offense or become defensive.

There’s another possible reason others may be communicating negative things to us:  It could reflect something about themThey may be feeling irritable or needy or judgmental.  And if we not only register what they make us feel like, but wonder whether what they are feeling, we can take communication to a whole new level.

Here’s an example:  One owner of a business lashes out at her partner about how he isn’t shouldering his share of the workload.  He thinks that’s unfair—with pretty good reason—and gets offended.  After all, he’s been working really long hours, putting forward real effort.  So, he shoots back, “What?  That’s ridiculous.  I’m sick of being undervalued by you.”  And he storms out of the office.

But what if this fellow were to wait and wonder:  Since I really don’t think it is accurate that I have been slacking off, there must be something happening in my partner’s mind that explains this unfair assertion.  Maybe she is feeling overwhelmed with work and needs more help.  Or maybe she’s wondering if I am capable of doing even more, because she’s worried we could lose the deal we’re working on.  Then, he might not come back with a quick, angry reply and storm out of the office.  He might say, “I don’t agree that I am underperforming.  I really don’t.  But I want to know what’s going on for you right now.  Are you needing more from me?  Are you worried we’re going to come up short on this project?  Help me understand.”

Now, that’s the beginning of a whole new level of communication and, maybe, a whole new level of synergy on the project at hand.

My friend Dr. Ben Carson, the esteemed Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, once told me, “I never take any insult or unfair assessment of me personally.  I take it as the beginning of a journey toward understanding and overcoming.”

That’s a pretty good bit of advice, don’t you think?

I suggest trying this approach out yourself.  It takes some practice.  And it takes getting used to.  When you feel something negative because of what someone has said—unfairly attacked or judged or undervalued—consider what the other person might need.  Then, deliver it.

Dr. Keith Ablow


Comments are closed.