How do you show up? Are you cautious, concerned about how you will be perceived and what effect that will have on whatever it is that you are showing up for? Or do you dive right in, excited and passionate, just sucking up every shred of value on offer?
I often experience these contrasting types on courses, in life and even at our daughters recent birthday party. There is the nature/nurture angle to this, clearly some people are just naturally more cautious and others are more naturally ebullient and that is fair enough. There are others who have been so “slapped” about at school, work or at home that they are nervous and wary of every interaction.
Between those extremes lie the majority of the rest of us, neither naturally ebullient nor psychologically damaged.
We have a choice. We can choose to show up in a variety of ways. The key bit for me is that we are honest. If we are enthusiastic about something – let’s say so. If we are uncertain or actively negative about something – let’s also say so.
My experience is that the more honest we can be the more we will get from any situation. Let me give two examples:
On a course I was facilitating last week, one participant was clearly resentful of his participation. It is a “mandatory” course and he felt that he had other priorities to resolve than wasting two days on a course. During a quick check in with the whole group he had the courage to say that he was “frustrated”, this gave a colleague and I permission to discuss his frustration with him. It turned out that he had some issues in his work that were relevant to the course and we could support him in finding solutions.
In another situation a participant was very keen on a new role in their organisation. They had emailed the relevant people, but had no response. In order to avoid appearing too enthusiastic, they had deliberately avoided following up – even just to check if the mail had been received. They were deeply disappointed at the apparent “rejection”, even though they had not established whether it was a rejection or an oversight.
Honesty, especially when it is carefully communicated, is far, far easier to deal with than politics, hidden agendas, moodiness or any other form of dishonesty.
The key skill is learning how to tell the truth in a way that adds value to all involved.
In the case of the first example, it was great that he raised it, but the frustration could have been avoided altogether if he had raised the issue with the relevant people before he ever arrived at the course. Another alternative would have been to have raised it with the facilitators earlier on in the course and set us the challenge of helping him solve the the problem with him during the course – to make the course worth his while. Another participant had stated his objective for the course, up front, as “Stealing Knowledge” from facilitators and other participants.
In the case of the second example, if you want something – go and get it! If you are concerned about appearing vulnerable or putting someone else on the spot, just take the time to think about your communication and find a way to do it that achieves your objectives and avoids any risks you are concerned about.
By contrast another individual I have met recently could not be more honest. He is excited about what he is doing and does not mind who knows it. His enthusiasm is enlivening for all who come into contact with him. You immediately want to be part of whatever he is part of, because he is so clearly passionate about it.
Honesty is not just about avoiding lies, it is about telling your truth. It is about expressing your feelings and needs clearly to those for whom they are relevant – at the time that they are relevant. Whether it is telling a loved one how much you adore them – or telling someone you want a job with their organisation (or don’t). Honesty is the key skill to finding success, happiness and fulfilment in life. By coincidence I have just seen this Ted Talk by Pamela Meyer on How to Spot a Liar.
Learn it, master it, love it.
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