WHO IS MOST VALUABLE TO YOU?
By Karl J. Krayer, Ph,D, –
Right before Christmas, I was in two meetings where we needed to be candid with each other. As the conversations continued, the tone and language began to change and I felt that others were not being truthful with me. I thought they were just telling me what I wanted to hear so they could get out of the meetings quickly. This was an example of people who are afraid to say what they really think. Why did they simply want to tell me what I wanted to hear?
Does that happen to you frequently? Do you have a person in your life who will tell you the way it is from their perspective, instead of what you want to hear?
Some examples happen all the time. You are dressed to go out and your family says, ”you look great tonight!” Or, you are with friends and they say that this is a great car to buy! What about a student who writes a paper and asks you “what do you think?”
Who is the person who will not tell you just what you want to hear, but instead will tell you exactly what they think? In the first example, who will say “that color does not look good on you,” or “I have read a lot of complaints about this vehicle”? In the last one, what if you said, “it looks like an A to me,” when in reality you should have said, “these two sections are not organized very well. You need to start over.”
In my view, those people could be one of the most valued persons in your life. They will shoot straight with you. They tell you what they really see and feel. Now, I do not know if you need too many of them because that could get you down quickly. Maybe only one is all you need.
But, it is true that we think it is better to hear something that we approve of, even if it is not the truth.
Just because someone sees things differently than you do does not mean they are right. Remember that their opinion may be as good as anyone else’s, including your own. When people give you honest feedback, you do not have to do anything you do not want. But, what you can do is weigh options, and at least consider different viewpoints. Doing that will slow down the decision-making to stop you being so impulsive.
Think about people who you are with on a regular basis. Notice that you enjoy their company and they are easy to talk with. But, how difficult is it to talk about what they really think?
You may not like this question. The real issue is, are you around people who are just “butt-kissers”? That may be the best thing you could do for yourself, especially around people who are superior in rank or status to you. For example, are you really going to tell a vice-president of a company that “I think this sales campaign will not work?” Most people just say this is a great idea just to save face. When in reality, that is not what they think at all.
Obviously, if the person has status and power over you, it takes courage to say what you really believe. You could get fired, or lose your position.
My first job was in sales in a department store. I kept the tables and racks clean and attractive. That is what I thought was good to do. If my store manager said, “this doesn’t look very good,” should I have said, “you’re right, I will fix it.” Or, should I have argued that “I think it will boost sales the way it is now.” Since I was only 18, I did not say anything except what he wanted me to do.
When people are afraid to say what they think, their feelings do not go away. When do you hear them? Not in a meeting where they belong – you hear them in the restroom, at lunch, or on the phone after work. Notice that is too late. The damage is done. They are left with unfilled input because they could not be genuine about what they really wanted to say.
Think about this one. On your way to visit an elderly friend in a hospital, you run into a doctor in the hallway, and you ask about how much time does she have. The doctor tells you that she has probably a week to live. So, what would you do? Suppose that you are a person who is uncomfortable lying. Would you just say, “I do not know. I am not a doctor,” even though you heard what the doctor said. Do you really want to say to your friend, “I just saw the doctor in the hall today, and he says that you have only a couple of days left to live.” You may – but many others would not. .
Realize there is a consequence to telling people exactly what you feel. If the person is not open-minded about looking for options or counter-views, the relationship may be scarred forever. If someone does not want to hear what you really think, you must consider the damage that may occur. Maybe you know people who have their minds made up easily and quickly, and who are not open to new ideas. Unfortunately, the world does not spin the way that you want it to.
If you asked one person “what do you really think,” and she does not want to hear it, at least you know that you are not going to repeat that again. If she cannot handle it the first time, why would she handle it any better the next time? You may have your feelings hurt, when just you only tried to help her.
Consider the context. I try to make requests like this in private, They probably will take what they ask you better. This works especially well when you preface the request with the importance or urgency of what you are talking about. Consider how you might feel when a person has had a dilemma or is making tough choices.
I am part of a group that is called BIND (Brain Injury Network of Dallas). One of our activities is called “ThinkTank,” where we suggest solutions for members who have problems that they want to solve. The key is to ask people to not fight the person who is giving a suggestion. It does not do much good when someone is only content with what they already know, and they are not open-minded about other options. In our group, we ask everyone to listen to suggestions, and not reply with responses like “I tried that before, and I did not work for me” or “That is too much trouble,” or “I cannot afford that.” This will kill the enthusiasm in the group quickly.
This is a complex issue. How do you work with someone who thinks differently about talking with others in a candid way? How do you cope with the possible conflicts that these situations pose? In many ways, the real questions are answered not by how we feel, but how we act. That is always the challenging problem we need to solve.