I am going through all my DRAFT posts that are sitting on my WordPress site that have long gone unpublished and I came across this one that was written in 2013.
At the time, it made such an impact but I was too fearful to publish it but now that I read it again, I’ve come to accept that these are the things I truly suck at and have been working to overcome so they don’t seem so bad.
If anything, I know I suck at them so there’s a freedom with accepting my limitations. However, the process of how I got this feedback was daunting and at times, distressing…
So here it is…
This is the Post Written that Was Written in 2013
Some time ago, I read Marc Ensign’s post, What Do I Suck At where he wrote to 50 of his family, friends and colleagues to ask them to submit 2 or 3 improvements he can make in his life. It was a good exercise to learn about how you are perceived by others and to learn your ‘blind spots’.
What struck me about this article was that he was willing to open himself up and accept what others may say about him. It’s not often that we do this in life. It’s not only scary for the person who requests this of their friends; but also of the friends who are possibly uncertain in writing anything for fear of how their responses may be perceived.
As I read the article, I thought of a similar activity I conducted with my first-year cadets at the Defence Academy many years ago when I was a Divisional Officer back in my old Navy days. It was on the ‘Johari Window‘ – an exercise to better understand themselves and others. The window explains the following (taken from the Business Balls website):
- What is known by the person about him/herself and is also known by others – open area, open self, free area, free self, or ‘the arena’
- What is unknown by the person about him/herself but which others know – blind area, blind self, or ‘blindspot’
- What the person knows about him/herself that others do not know – hidden area, hidden self, avoided area, avoided self or ‘facade’
- What is unknown by the person about him/herself and is also unknown by others – unknown area or unknown self
This particular ‘What Do I Suck At’ activity involves finding out what others know about me but what I may not necessarily know about myself – that is, it highlights my blind spots. I decided that I would do the same not only to find out about my blind spots but to also generate a more empathetic feeling towards others towards me (after I saw this video from RSA Animate on How to be More Empathetic) and use it as a starting place to make positive changes in myself for 2013.
(After all, we may not be given the opportunities in life to walk in someone else’s shoes but we can ask them about how they perceive the world and us).
So I wrote an email to 50 family, friends and colleagues some of whom knew me for a long time; others not so long and asked me to email me 2 or 3 improvements or “things that I suck at” and waited for a response.
In hindsight, I should have taken my time to do something like this because I didn’t know I would get certain reactions from people and how the request shocked them.
Certainly, for a couple of people who responded, the feedback was scathing and it’s hard-hitting feedback took me by surprise but like they said, “I asked for it” and boy, did they let loose. (For the record, one was a family member and another an acquaintance). But I’m glad they did because it made me realise how my actions are perceived by them. I would never have known otherwise that certain actions irritated or frustrated them.
On, the whole though, most people responded with thoughtful and meaningful responses.
What I didn’t count on was that these couple of comments were initially perceived as personal attacks on me and I had to stop myself from becoming defensive, change my thinking and see it from their point of view. After all, they’re right. I did ask for feedback and should be adult enough to accept it. But it also made me realise that I could have better explained the request in the email so they had more context as to why I was doing this.
In all honesty, my request was never meant to be illicit such an angry and vehement response from these two people who thought I was doing this because I had such low self-esteem that I needed their opinions to boost me. Or that “I didn’t know what I was doing and the consequences of asking for this feedback to my emotional well being”. Oops – if I knew that I’d get this reaction, I should have explained the reasons and context in my email clearly!
But it did make me think that we all perceive information and requests differently.
Maybe what hurt them was that I put them in a position where they had to provide negative feedback?
So out of 50 requests I sent out, only 8 people responded. Out of the eight, one politely declined to comment. But here are some of the feedback that I have enjoyed getting and which start me off as improvements for the new year:
(1) “Stop using social media entirely because we don’t want to read your posts” or “You use social media too much”.
Unfortunately, despite social media irritating me at times (especially Facebook which is the social media they are referring to), I simply cannot. Do this, I risk affecting my livelihood. It simply won’t happen. However, the actions out of this one is to not post negative status updates; whine online, and be selective who I post to. The result of this is to minimize Facebook (hopefully delete it entirely this year), and to hide posts from certain individuals – I need to get smarter on how to post on Facebook.
I’m unsure about this because late in 2011, I went without social media for 30 days (as a personal challenge which I succeeded) but I had texts and requests from many people telling me to “get back on because they were missing my posts and the things I learned from you”. One person even said that my posts are professional development for her as she doesn’t have to do as much research because I steer her to relevant content.
So it just goes to show that it’s hard to please everyone….
(2) You are too hasty in expressing your thoughts and this gets you in trouble – keep your thoughts to yourself.
Yes! How very true and I know this myself. When I first read this my initial thought was “oops, I thought I kept that hidden from others, my facade!” However, that was further from the truth. So this year, I’m not going to jump in and say, yell, write or exclaim my initial thoughts – especially not online – as it can be perceived negatively by others.
Thank you to my friend who called this out! It’s a wake-up call for me.
(3) Stop whining about your job and take action to change it!
Once again, all true. 2012 was a year of immense personal learning for me. Work-wise, it was a roller coaster ride of emotions as I let the external factors such as huge change affect my work. I reached a point where I was sick of constant redundancies and multiple restructures. I’m not one who can handle people who constantly change their minds; workplaces that constantly restructure; teams that constantly change; no leadership, feedback; apathy; direction or certainty. However, it’s taught me that this is the future workplace. “The only certainty is that there will be change”. I can choose to let it get to me (and as a result, let it affect me personally or my health) or I can choose to control the things I can control and let go of others. In 2013 I’ll be doing the latter.
Thank you to my work colleague for opening my eyes.
(4) Take a fresh look at your writing skills because your writing is terrible also do a Criterion Referenced Instruction workshop!
This was a bit out of left field and admittedly, my writing skills do need to improve. Hopefully, more blogging will improve them?
I had completed a CRI workshop many years ago. CRI is an instructional design methodology based on behavioural science principles about how people learn and what motivates them. I’m unsure what they are trying to say to me. Is it that I get too excited about the learning tools and not enough on what motivates the learner?
I did a search online on potential courses but really, I’ve done this before and I have read all of Mager and understand the concepts. After all, he was considered a god of instructional design when I was in the military. I am wondering though why someone else would think I need further improvement in this? Did I accidentally write the verb, “to understand” in one of my performance objectives in one of the courses? (Sacrilege). I must ask him.
Thank you to my ex-work colleague for this curious piece of advice.
(5) “You take on too much responsibility and pressure for projects in your life and work which wears you down and affects the end outcome” and “you worry and get yourself sick when you cannot change something or people – you cannot win them all – just don’t care as much”
Brilliant. These sentences personify exactly how I feel most of the time. Thing is, I get too excited by ideas and concepts that I just want to jump onboard and do everything. I’m not one to sit still and take it easy. Ask for volunteers and it’s likely you’d find my hand shoot up in the air. I don’t know why I do this. It’s an automatic reaction.
(Aside: I remember many years ago my father gave me *sage* advice before I joined the Navy. I never needed it. He whispered in my ear, “never volunteer for anything”. Unfortunately, while in the Navy, there were too many good opportunities to pass by. If I never volunteered for anything, I would never have been tea-bagged into Jervis Bay off a Seahawk helicopter; I would never have drunk pisco in the wardroom with the officers of the Chilean Navy Training Ship, The Esmeralda; I would never have hauled the sails on the masts of the STS Young Endeavour; I wouldn’t have had an opportunity to go for the role of Aide-de-Camp of the Governor-General; I would never have abseiled off a tower with the Dutch Marines in Rotterdam and the list goes on – if I don’t volunteer, I’ll miss out on some life-changing or learning opportunity).
Others don’t mind my automatic volunteer response because they will give me the job and they know it will be done. But for me, I get tired after I see that others may not share the same enthusiasm with me – and yes, this wears me down.
My 2013 goals is to be mindful of this – take a breath before I respond; think before I speak and act – and have a long term view of the impact to my health and well being.
(6) “Stand up for yourself. You’re too nice. You avoid confrontation. Take a stand!”
Once again, spot on. Thank you to my friend who has mentioned this. There’s nothing more I can add here. Too many people have mentioned this to me. I think it may simply be a case of saying, “No” in 2013.
So there you have it. Not many responses overall but the ones received were quality ones with no real surprises for me which only goes to show that I don’t have as many blind spots as I thought. I’m a fairly open character – what you see is what you get. From the responses that took me aback, I believe the reason they were harsh is that they didn’t have the context of what I was doing and my intent for this exercise.
Did this exercise affect me negatively as one person responded?
No it did not.
Will it affect me personally because I wouldn’t be able to handle all the criticism said another?
No hardly – it actually did the opposite. If anything, the people who did respond were happy to be asked (despite the initial shock) and were quite thoughtful and truthful with their responses.
For that, I’m grateful and thank them all from the bottom of my heart.
And yes, I will still volunteer….for the fun stuff.
Back to 2017
So what about you? Have you ever had to ask for personal feedback and risked it being negative that it opened up some thoughts on how you are perceived by others? What did you learn about yourself in the process?