Leadership, Personal Development, Motivation
What is our reality?
Many of us would say that we know ourselves better than anyone else. We think that we know how we communicate with others, what our preferred communication style is, whether we are direct or indirect, and we also think that we know how we are perceived by people around us. However, what we think we know and what is real usually are very different realities.
We often are so ignorant about our reality that all we know is what we think, and do not have any desire to ask others for honest feedback about us. How do others see us based on the way we communicate, our body language, our manors, gestures, and physical appearance?
Are we being viewed the way we feel we are, or are we viewed completely different from our reality? If you really have an opportunity and courage to step outside of your comfort zone, overcome your personal ego, and seek feedback from people other than your immediate family members, for example your colleagues, you will most likely hear their reality, the way you are being perceived, and their perception will be very much different from the reality that you have created for yourself in your mind.
You may want to be viewed as someone who is caring, someone who values relationships and genuinely cares for others, however, if what is visible to others does not reflect how you really feel through your actions, emotions, the tone of your voice, or even your smile, how can we expect for people to see the other side of us? We need to let others in, in order to get to know us for who we really are vs. the person on the outside - our image, which is created over many years and shaped by our culture, our family, people with whom we interact on the daily basis, and, of course, the environment around us.
It is easy to say than done
You are probably thinking, well Alex, aren’t we supposed to be tough, independent, confident and in many cases direct in order to move forward in life and in our careers? The short answer is yes. It is often necessary to be tough, determined, direct, and persistent in order to keep moving forward in life and our careers. However, what we should remember that that is that is not the requirement to live by all the time. There are many times when we need to be warm, engaging, welcoming, and caring in order to build extremely valuable relationships with others, which can be even more important to them and you as well.
Business side vs. Personal Side
It is not an easy task to uncover and display your true personality to others, especially if they are the people whom you never met before. It is hard work, which requires self-discovery, bravery to ask for honest feedback, and even more importantly, being open to receive constructive and sometimes harsh feedback from others. However, it is with that honest and direct feedback is when you learn the most about yourself and able to focus on the areas of your personality and perception that you need to work on improving.
Who cares about perception?
You may not care about others’ perception of you, but they certainly care how your actions, your behavior affects them. This is even more important if these are the people with whom you work or do business. If you are direct by nature and if you treat everyone else if a direct manner, when the only thing you care for is making sure that your deadlines and expectations are met, but the people that you work with are in desperate need for some genuine acknowledgement of their efforts, and for someone to tell and show them that their boss cares about them, how long do you think that they will tolerate such environment if their needs are not met? Do you think that they will want to try harder to deliver good results and encourage others? I don’t think so.
What can you do to recognize when it is time to change?
First, take some time to really listen to what your peers and people with whom you interact are trying to tell you? Listen to their comments, feedback, suggestions, wants and needs. As leaders, we often miss very important pieces of critical information, simply because we do not know how to listen. We hear what other people are telling us, but we are not really listening to them. Information goes in and out. Next time someone is speaking and sharing something with you at work or outside of work, put everything that you are doing at that moment, and yes, that includes your phone, and listen to them without interrupting.
Second, be open to and willing to change how you interact with others and flex your communication style when appropriate. Remember to be flexible in order to match your audience. Your direct approach may not work for someone who prefers more softer communication approach, just like someone who prefers to receive directions in a direct manner, may be less receptive when you are trying to sugar coat things.
Third, encourage and seek feedback from others. Where else will you receive raw and unfiltered truth than from the people you work with when they are presented with an opportunity to be open and honest with you. In order to make a comfortable and safe environment for people to share, you need to set the foundation and explain the reasons why their honest feedback is important to you and them. If you know how your employees wants and needs are and how they prefer to be communicated with, then you can adjust your communication style to match theirs, and deliver the information where it can actually be received by them and you.
Lastly, remember that you interact and work with people who have feelings, opinions, and desires. Therefore, be human, show that you care about others, and not just with your words but more importantly with your actions. Don’t expect immediate changes in people’s behaviors and their interactions with you right off the bet, it takes time, for them to see that you stand behind your words and back your words with your actions. Be human first, and boss second.
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