Over the past several weeks, I've had the productive pleasure of participating in Keith Ferrazzi's Relationship Master's Academy. If Keith's name sounds familiar to you here, you may remember that I made a complete arse out of myself the first time I met him. Water under the bridge now of course... though I may experience a Pavlovian cringe the next time I see a plate of bananas foster.
In any case, I've been talking a whole lot about relationships lately. What makes them strong? What makes them difficult? How do we build more and better relationships? What are the secrets to proper care and feeding of a good network? And so on.
It's convenient timing for such exploration as I am also working on the book proposal for My Life Does Not Make Your Butt Look Big (working title).
One consistent observation is that critical judgment of others is not only extremely common, but can make a big difference in our ability to form and nurture relationships.
I'm not just talking about the, "Oh. Em. Gee. Did you see what she was, like, wearing?!" kind of judgment.
We project our opinions onto others in so many ways, both personally and professionally. Often, these experiences do not have happy endings.
For example, my very first job was as a commissioned sales associate at a clothing store in Suburbia, USA. I was only 16 years old and didn't even have my driver's license yet. (Picture me riding four miles each way on an old five-speed with my Farrah Fawcett hair and Payless platforms.)
1. Solutions can come from the most unexpected places. No matter how high we think our position, it pays to listen to everyone and anyone willing to come forth with their ideas about how to make things better.
2. When times get tough, our own fear of failure can back us into the corner and make us defensive or angry. (Personally, I tend to express this as impatience.) While the tendency is to put up those protective walls, this is the time when we need to be more open to and accepting of others' insight, help and support. Put the claws away.
3. Everyone has "customer service" in their job description, whether those customers are external clients or co-workers or family and friends. As tempting as it may be to focus on how annoying, stupid, random or arrogant (etc) some of those people may seem, we hold our own happiness and success hostage by indulging in judgment. Before reacting, I find it helpful to take a breath and ask myself, "What am I trying to accomplish with this interaction and what can I do to be most helpful towards that outcome?"
4. When we peel the paint off those walls of judgment, we will typically find a layer of insecurity and/or fear underneath. When I was a child, my mom told me that the kids who made fun of me only did it to feel better about themselves. I was a weird kid and I probably would have made fun of me too. But here's the truth: judging others is more a reflection of our own defects and usually makes us feel worse, not better. In accepting, celebrating and investing positive energy in others, we generate more confidence in ourselves.
5. One of the many things I learned in the halls of AA with my first husband was, "Take your own inventory." (See also: When you point a finger at someone else, there are three pointing back at you.) Continuing with the theme that one side of the wall of judgment is reflective, often those qualities which bother us most in others, are those which we possess ourselves. Yet, while it's helpful to pay attention to those negative triggers, I personally feel that self-analysis is only truly helpful when it includes the good stuff too. In accepting, celebrating and investing positive energy in ourselves, we generate more confidence in others.
Let's all look for opportunities to break down those walls and make more room to grow as individuals as well as in our relationships with those around us.
Increased confidence brings increased capacity.