Have you ever lost sleep thinking about what someone else said or did? I know I have, and the worst offence, in my experience, is when you feel that person has judged you unfairly.
This week I’ve had two conversations and some personal experience to remind me that, “What other people think about us is none of our business.” This is a tough mindset to master because most of us want to be liked and respected by others. Hell happens when we are not liked or loved or when people do not behave in the way we think they ‘should’.
A coachee of mine, let’s call him Simon, received his performance review this week. Whilst most of the document was positive there were some comments from somebody on the management team that were, in Simon’s view, not factual and he was ticked off. I read the review and the comments in question were certainly subjective, historical and not based on actual observation of Simon’s current behavior. Notwithstanding how unprofessional it is to write such things in a performance review, my job, as coach, was to help Simon process this information and move on.
Other People & Self-leadership
In my book Self-leadership (Mc Graw-Hill 2012), I explain that we are responsible ‘For’ our thoughts, feelings, speech and actions – we are not responsible ‘for’ what somebody else thinks, feels, says or does. Our sense of ‘Self’ our self-esteem is not dependant on others and we give up our power of choice if we allow others to define us.
As a child you did look to others and to define you because you had not yet developed your autonomy; and as an adult you can carefully observe the behavioral norms from any group/team you decide to join an choose to ‘fit in’, but ultimately who you are is your choice.
Simon was particularly angry because his reviewer was not seeing him the way he saw himself. Her comments were based on an incident that had occurred three years ago which she had not personally witnessed and so was basing her judgment on hearsay. What can I say, “Life is not fair”, and people are going to do ‘unfair’ things. Also this week, I consoled a friend who had been contacted for a dream job. This would have been great if it had not been for the fact that a friend of hers had applied for the same job and considered it “hers” – On learning that my friend had been contacted; she was furious and stopped speaking to her friend.
Should we consider the feelings of others? Of course we should.
Are we responsible for the feelings of others? Absolutely not!
Hell would be trying to please all the people all the time. We must live according to our values and our vision; if we are part of an organization or team we choose to align our values with the values of the group. When other members do not behave according to those values then we can bring this to their attention in a respectful but assertive way. If we say nothing but just judge these people in our minds then we create a hell for ourselves.
We all have a mental bias that what we do is right and what others do is wrong. As I was driving to work today car moved rapidly into my lane and I cursed his driving; just a few moments later I needed to also rapidly change lanes and because I indicated expected to be let in. The car behind beeped me, and I am sure he judged my driving as bad whilst I am convinced I was in the right.
There is a story about two monks walking in the forest when they come to a stream. There is a woman struggling to cross and so one monk picks her up and carries her to the other bank. The monks continue on their journey but the one who had not carried the woman was, despite not saying anything, obviously furious. After some miles he broke his silence and said, “Our order prevents us from touching women, I can’t believe that you would carry that woman across the stream!” He is met with a smile from the first monk who says, “Brother, I put that woman down five miles ago, why are you still carrying her?”
Choose to put down the baggage; don’t carry other people around in your head. If you need to say something, say it but remember they will often feel as justified in their perspective as you do in yours.