Clients who come to me for either executive or communication skills coaching often tell me that they are afraid of what people will think of them, will say about them. This fear makes them overly cautious and timid in expressing their real views and needs.
I get it.
This fear was drilled into me growing-up. As my mother used to say, “Don’t give people a reason to talk.”
I expended a lot of energy worrying – and now as a communication skills coach I’m energized helping people not worry!
How does this play out in rough-n-tumble of daily work life?
Nora (all names changed) shared with me at the beginning of the year that she had a liberating “Aha! Moment”. Over lunch with a client she realized that people are not always logical – that everyone is illogical in their own way and it’s one of the ways that makes each of us distinct.
As we hashed out her insight, Nora explained that her client reminded her that not everyone thinks the way she does.
Duh! Basic? Sure – yet, how often do we forget, ignore or refuse to believe that truth?
Nora has resolved not to fall into the trap of presuming that SHE thinks the way everyone else thinks. She realizes she has to pay attention – she has to have a game plan with each strategic partner, client or colleague.
Art heads up a team in the financial department of a resort. At our first session of the year, he sounded pained as he asked, “Why can’t people show up for work and not be so needy? Why can’t people just do their job?”
Art doesn’t “get” that having needs is not necessarily a character defect!
Cut to this month. . .
Nora helped bring a significant project to the company. Two senior colleagues have now maneuvered to take full credit for client + project. (that one sentence reduces a complicated scenario to manageable terms)
Nora told me that she needed to talk with them about the situation as she found it unacceptable.
Calmly, she said, I cannot not talk to them.
Since the conversation she needed to have fits the classic definition of a “difficult conversation,” her matter-of-factness about it all was remarkable.
She had no intent to complain. She simply wanted to establish boundaries – gain clarity – have a working relationship – all for the sake of her self-respect and the well-being of the client.
She recently had the conversation and was surprised when her colleagues reminded her, “You’re not like us.”
It was an odd statement that could be interpreted several ways. Whatever they meant by it, though, doesn’t really matter since they were right – Nora is not like them.
She has a fundamentally different approach to collaboration or to how to work on behalf of a client.
Is everything now “good” between Nora and her colleagues?
“Things” are better in that there’s more clarity. Better in that the truth she is not like them has been acknowledged. Better because some ground rules were established.
What is important, though, is that Nora had the conversation she knew she had to have.
From a place of respect, she advocated for herself and for the client – and she did it without playing games.
Well, he told me in our last session that he no longer tells his boss what he’s thinking. “What’s the point? Nothing changes!”
Fed-up he’s decided to shut-up.
It’s a strategy that clearly has given him no satisfaction.
Art’s approach to conversation is fundamentally different from Nora’s. His conversations with direct reports were meant to change behavior rather than to represent his point-of-view. When the behavior did not change – when people still did not do things the way he does things – frustration kicked-in.
Sadly, he became disagreeable and the more disagreeable he became, the more his direct reports steered clear of him. The more they avoided him, the more mistakes were made.
They acted from the belief, “You’re not like us” and so “You don’t like us.”
What do people say about Nora and Art?
You’re not like us.
Nora embraces that truth. Art bristles.
Nora claims her vision. Art folds like a victim.
And so THE question is –
What do you want people to say about you?
Consider these seven questions:
- What are 5 words you want people to say about you?
- Do those words help or hinder you in your relationships?
- Do those words compliment your work culture?
- Do they allow you to form successful relationships?
- Do you know what people now say about you?
- Do you view what people say as a compliment or a smack-down?
- Are you defensive or grateful?
What do you want people to say about you when they talk about you behind your back?
How are you going to make sure they say what you want them to say?
I help people “find their voice”
showing professionals how to communicate in smart, healthy ways
so as to develop successful relationships.
To explore how I can help you find the happiness
that will let you present you with enhanced confidence,
please contact me at: