How do you think they feel?

Challenge Question #2 for leaders and teachers.

How do you think they feel?

One of the most offensive, most assumptive, most patronizing statements humans make sounds like some derivation of: “I know how you feel.” Really? How could you know how I feel? Sympathy and empathy and pity all look at someone else’s feelings from a slightly different angle, but no one can really “know how you feel” unless they are you – save One.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou

Working with the hurting

People who join our teams, become employees, students, clients, and peers all come to us with “life before this moment.” Many of us have experienced pain in the past. Some pain takes days to reconcile with life moving forward; some pain takes decades. As leaders and teachers we must remember the admonition of Maya Angelou. We must ever be mindful, influence and leadership are synonymous and as such we will always leave an indelible mark through the emotions we ignite in others. We must be cautious in the words we choose, the tone we select, the way we approach team members who are hurting.

Working with the hurtful

Counsellor Bob Hamp was on staff as a pastor when my family joined Gateway Church. I remember him saying repeatedly, “Hurt people, hurt people.” I can confirm through both research and experience this statement is “true than true.” I was a hurt people and as a result, I hurt more people than I know. As leaders, we must identify and influence hurt people to minimize the damage and impact of their pain filled behavior. If you are a hurt people and in a position of influence, for the sake of those you serve, call Bob and learn to think differently. Your level of impact will be much greater as your circle of influence grows, for better or worse.

What you think can hurt you and them both

Most people, me included, tend to project our own self image onto the thoughts other have of us. Let me explain. If I look at me as “fat and unlovable” I assume everyone looks at me the same way AND as a result, I behave as if they think that way. I might take extreme offense at a joke about dieting. Donald Trump recently said:

“I think Diet Coke makes people fat. You never see a skinny person drinking Diet Coke.”

I also recognize the tendency to judge others, through my presumed judgement of me. A few of my friends, also coaches in various fields, are absolutely committed to their health and fitness. I am moderately committed. Meaning, IF I have time to get to the gym, I will. IF I can afford to buy healthy food, I will. IF I can muster the energy to go for a run, I will. For Clint Fuqua and Jim Gardner, these are not “If, then” they are simply “I WILL” choices. As a result, they look great with 2% body fat and I look like Sponge Bob Square Pants. BUT, I tend to presumptively judge myself through their eyes. When I am eating anything around them, the rabbit food seems the only thing on the menu. Recently, Jim and I took a 12 hour road trip. I was really craving a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup – but opted for a bag of cashews instead. Would Jim really have berated me if I had the Reese’s? Not likely. Would he have thought less of me as a person? No. Would it bring our friendship to an end? NO!

There is a fine line between positive peer pressure and judgmental behavior. If I allowed myself to THINK, or FEEL, or BEHAVE as if Jim or Clint thought less of me for eating chocolate, I might choose to avoid the judgement by avoiding them. My thinking could damage a relationship because I think wrongly and then blame them for it.

Ask yourself, “How do I think they feel?” Then ask them. Be ready to hear surprising things. What we think others feel toward us and what they actually feel can be drastically different in good or bad ways. Please get clarity before changing your thoughts toward them or your behavior toward them. It is both unfair and unrealistic to base your relationship on the way you think they feel, especially if you are wrong.

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J Loren Norris is available to speak and train on leadership and communication skills, for corporate America, Associations, Conventions, churches, and non profit organizations. Click here to learn more.




Blog for 3-9-16
judgement, feelings, empathy, Jim Gardner, Bob Hamp, Clint Fuqua, thought life, thought leadership, relationships, willpower, discipline J Loren Norris, blog

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