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you want to know what I really think of you?

June 26, 2013

“You  want to know what I really think of you?”

Woman whispering in a man's ear.They are usually words that we hear spoken in threatening tones. We expect that they will be followed up with more words that will express negative opinions of us, our competency, our personality, our style, how we dress or how we smell.

They are not words we usually want to hear. They are not words that we usually want to people to say to us. Because we are afraid of the words that might follow.

Afraid of the opinions that others might share of what they don’t like about how we show up in their world.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about how I show up for people. A friend had mentioned me to someone in a professional context and their response was surprising and disappointing.

So, I started asking people.

So, what do you think of me? What do you like about working with me? What am I good at? What would you tell other people that I do well?”

It was nice that people didn’t seem to struggle to come up with answers. What I learned though, was that what they were saying they would tell others I did well wasn’t the kinds of things I wanted to be known for doing well. It only took a couple of conversation like that before I came to the realisation that I was avoiding asking the most important questions…

“So, what am I bad at? What don’t you like about how I show up at work?”

So I asked.

“Well, sometimes you piss senior people off… But that’s not really the problem. The problem is that you piss ’em off and you don’t know that you are doing it.”

“You can tend to be a bit arrogant. You come across sometimes like you have all the answers.”

Ouch. And thank you for telling me what I needed to hear most. Now that I know I can choose to take action (or not) in response to those perceptions of me.

Since then I have had conversations with people who I know (and so have my own experience and opinion of how they show up in my world) and I have been listening for how they think they show up in the world. How they think people experience them and how people experience their leadership. Many haven’t given it much thought and few have asked others directly. All of us have a view on how others show up for us.

As an example, I was having coffee with recently with the person who started me down this road.  When I asked him how he thought people experienced his leadership he replied “That’s a very good question. I hadn’t really thought about it. I hope they would say …”  When speaking of a mutual friend however he was quick to offer “I am glad to see he has settled down a bit and become, well, more professional. He used to show up a bit like an excited teenager.”

Ouch. And I suspect that he hadn’t shared that opinion with the person who needed to hear it most. Without it, there is no opportunity for them to take action (or not) in response.

At least that is what I think.

Should we tell people what we really think of them? Are we able to share with them how they show up in our world?  Are they able to hear what we have to say? To listen for the almost certain value to be generated from our (possibly) negative assessment of them?

Are you able to ask the question and have people respond..

“You want to know what I really think of you?”

Or is it all too hard? Too dangerous? For us and for them?

Go on. Tell me. I want to know what you think. Really.


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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Beth Stubberfield permalink
    June 26, 2013 1:39 pm

    Another great blog, and a really powerful one; how you show up to me… is very different from what do you think of me? It is a really insightful queston for most people. If our Leaders were able to ask that question of their team and compare it to self perception some may realise that how they show up is the opposite to their self perception and may actually contradict who they are, or want to be and what they are aiming to achieve.
    Thanks for your provocative thoughts… I needed that today.

    • June 26, 2013 7:28 pm

      You are welcome Beth. It is not a natural thing to do. Young children will share their honest opinions of other but we are pretty quickly taught that that sort of honesty is not appropriate. Shame really.

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