“When you hear the same negative comment about you from several sources, it’s probably time to stop saying, “they just don’t get me” and time to investigate why you’re unable to see how others experience you.” Caron Loveless
Years ago, I was leading a team in our church and things weren’t progressing well. I tried all the typical team building exercises I knew to improve the connection but it seemed like people were holding back in our meetings.
Later, I discovered, part of the glitch was some in the group felt intimidated by me. Others thought I didn’t value their ideas as much as my own. I was stunned. I honestly saw myself as a warm, inviting leader who gave everyone an equal opportunity to contribute.
When I thought about it, there had been other times similar remarks got back to me:
“She needs things to go her way.”
“Her opinions are so strong I’m reluctant to offer mine.”
“She can be intense.”
My response to these comments went from, “I don’t understand. I think I’m a pretty patient and inclusive leader” to “What’s their problem? Don’t they know it takes decisive leadership to get things done?”
Even as sharp and “self-aware” as we think we are, other people aren’t as invested in us as we are so they can be more objective about how we’re coming across. We always want to see ourselves in the best light so we internally block ourselves from believing negative feedback.
So, we resist. We think others are exaggerating or worse- that THEY are the problem. Our first reaction when someone tells us “you can be abrasive” or “you’re always in a hurry” or “you always have to be right” or “you take too much credit for things” is to defend ourselves.
Most people have our best interests at heart when they tell us the truth. And we should probably trust their insights about us more than we do.
But, often, it takes a showdown or crisis to pry us open to hearing how we actually come across. It’s after we’ve been let go from our job or lost a friend or exited a marriage that the slap stings enough to wake us up to important issues we refused to see.
No matter how long you’ve been at it, there’s still room to grow.
And even though people love us as we are, all our relationships run smoother, with greater connection and efficiency when we are able to listen with humility to the feedback others have been trying to give us.
Honest feedback is hard to hear. Especially if we’re too attached to other’s approval or sensitive to constructive criticism. But it’s a skill that can be honed and mastered.
- What can you do in the days ahead to cultivate better openness to the feedback of others for the sake of your marriage, family, and work relationships?
- What would it take for you to be more open to the possibility that some part of what others are saying or have said is true about you?
- When was the last time you invited a few trusted friends to help you gain clearer insight into areas of your behavior you’ve been unaware of?
I figured out that it’s near impossible for me to hear unpleasant things about myself with low self-esteem and a faulty assurance of my unchangeable preciousness to God.
Some key internal assumptions I had about me had to change.
I’m learning, through Christian meditation and contemplation how to live experientially and consistently from the truth that at my core I am a fully approved child of God, enough as I am, free from shame. And it’s strengthening me to hear the occasional unpleasant truth about my shadow side with much less fear and defensiveness.
The bottom line: I’m a much better leader and less shaken by helpful comments.
So what might the Lord be saying to you today in this article?
Prov 25:11-12 … a wise friend’s timely reprimand is like a gold ring slipped on your finger.