In this Halloween season, when witches and ghouls take center stage, maybe it’s time to ask yourself if you’re scary. No, I’m not referring to the costume you’re planning to wear this year. I mean, do others feel safe sharing their truth with you? After all, as a leader — at work or at home—you’re operating in the dark when others won’t speak the truth.
We are constantly teaching others how to treat us and no one is going to be honest with you if their transparency is met with disrespect, anger, criticism or you becoming emotionally defensive. This scary, destructive demeanor ruins relationships and prevents growth. Here are four strategies to go from frightful to delightful:
1. Look for Tell-Tale Signs. Want to know if others find you witchy or ghoulish? People only share information that is positive or they deem you’d find agreeable. So, if you haven’t heard others’ recent struggles, opinions, challenges or mistakes, beware. Chances are it’s not just because their life is smooth sailing, but rather they don’t want to get caught in your storm. Professionally, if no one discusses hot topics around you, or personally, if your child consistently lies to your face, it’s time to face the truth. All positive change begins with awareness.
2. Rather than React, Respond. When someone comes to you and shares information that you find distressing (“We won’t be able to meet the deadline for those deliverables you were promised.”) or you uncover a “D” on a child’s report card, take a deep breath and pause instead of blurting out the first thing that comes to mind. Until you can speak in a calm tone, don’t say anything. If this takes time, buy yourself some by saying, “Wow. Give me some time to process this information and we’ll revisit it (choose a time).” Refrain from asking accusatory questions such as, “How could you let this happen?!” Stay respectful and probe for more information. “Help me understand how we got here” or “Tell me more about what led to this situation.”
3. Be Gentle and Less Judgmental. We all have opinions about how others should believe, think, speak, and act, not to mention dress or even drive! That’s your truth. Live it. And, allow others to do the same. It’s one thing to have a strong opinion, but another to make others pay for not sharing your mindset.
4. Heal Your Hurts. The truth is, when we become scary and over-react, it’s often a result of our buried history. Perhaps we can’t forgive our own mistakes or still have unrealistic expectations or goals. A high need to be right or defensive behavior often signals someone who was made to feel wrong. Only when we accept our history and love ourselves just the way we are right now will we be able to give the same compassion and acceptance to others.
To lead both yourself and others to greatness, create an environment where truth-telling isn’t feared, but welcomed to create spook-tacular results!