by Cara Lumen
It was graduation and he had won a special award and was to give a speech as a representative for his department. His parents drove for an hour to pick him up and he kept them waiting a long time because he wasn’t ready. Consequently they were late to the ceremony and the worried organizers had been frantically trying to figure out who they might get to give the talk since he hadn’t showed up..
Does this person know that he is showing great disregard for other people by not keeping his word?
Does this person know that he will soon not be trusted to do what he says he will do?
Does this person know how adversely his actions affected many others?
Is it a conscious or unconscious choice?
Does he care?
Or does he simply not get it?
What do you do, unconsciously, that affects others
It’s hard to know how you affect others because you are in your head not theirs, but if you start observing the reactions around you, you will come to understand your effectiveness or ineffectiveness.
One of the things that happens to me when I get excited is that I talk fast and have no thoughts of the people I’m sharing with – I’m wrapped up in my own enthusiasm and pay no attention to how they are receiving it. I finally understood this when I found myself on the receiving end of that behavior. At a board meeting a person came in sharing her big idea in a stream of excited talk and when I asked a question about how that might affect my responsibilities she said, “Oh that’s not important.” That didn’t feel good for me but it was a great gift for her to give me – a reflection and new awareness of my own behavior. It gave me a choice to change.
Have you had a gift like that lately?
I offer advice way more than I should – it has to do with all the ideas I have. I have a friend who patiently continues to tell me that she hasn’t asked for my advice and I’m gradually being able to stop giving so much advice to others unless I am specifically asked for it.
What are you doing unconsciously that is adversely affecting others?
You may need to ask those around you. Start with your family. Perhaps it’s a family round table where you talk about the personal boundaries each of you choose to set, or how each of you would like to be treated by others. Perhaps the need for you to change your behavior is being pointed out by a good friend who is actually suggesting how you might change your behavior but you aren’t listening yet.
A friend recently shared with me that she was very critical of her daughter but not of her son and felt she was driving her daughter away. She didn’t like that she did it but she didn’t know how to change her behavior. We talked about how she could change her vocabulary when she spoke to her daughter and how she could consciously censor her critical thoughts before she spoke them and then choose not to say them. She tried it the next night and the daughter, who normally shared her excitement with her non-critical dad, actually addressed some of her comments to her newly-non-critical mom. It only took a new awareness on my friends part and a desire to change to make a difference in her family dynamic.
All the change has to come from you
If something is not working, you are the only one that has to change. You have to change your thinking, or your attitude or your comments or your viewpoint. Sometimes looking at the situation from the other person’s point of view can be very illuminating. Step into their shoes for a moment and see it as they do. Whatever the situation – whether something is working or not working – it is all because of you and how you perceive it and how you approach it. It’s within your power to change it – for better or for worse. Change your thinking, change your life.
Be aware of how you affect others
Start looking at the expressions on the faces around you. Become aware of how people respond to you. What do they ask of you? How do they include you? Do they exclude you? Ask a good friend to point out some things that are not working in your relationships. Then listen and see what you are willing to change.
When you change, your life will change.
©2010 Cara Lumen