Perceptions and feedback

I am writing to you today from my old hometown in Germany. I´m visiting my family after having taken part in a very interesting Coaching seminar last week. This was the first seminar of the kind I took part in, and let me tell you, spending five 14-hour-days with 21 other Coaches is no mean feat. Imagine a suitcase, if you will, that on the way there is well packed and spacious, but on the way back you´re having difficulty fitting all the items you´ve acquired into it, to the point that you have to sit on it so it´ll even close. That´s what my head felt like, and I wouldn´t have it any other way. The certificate mentions a number of psychological tools I´ve learned how to use, but the experience and lessons in self-awareness simply don´t fit on one page. And that is something I´d like to share with you all today.

When you walk into a meeting room full of your colleagues, or into a bar full of strange faces, do you know what impression you give? Not meaning to scare you or anything, but chances are, it´s not the impression you have of yourself. You may feel nervous, but you may be perceived as being in control, or aloof, or even arrogant. Dito the perception you have of other people, they may not be as timid as you think they are. So how can you bring those two images a bit closer?

The starting point can only be "know thyself". Ask yourself what your motivators are, what behaviour in others makes you nervous, which triggers make you react in a calm, sad, offended or aggressive manner. A lot of self-awareness work is in retrospect, when you´re thinking about a conversation you had that didn´t go the way you planned it and you´re wondering where things started going downhill. Replaying the facts and fictions in your mind is a good way to look for clues of your own making. Why did you say this or react like that? Only you can know these things!

Once you know what makes you tick, I´d like to suggest to keep the following in mind: we´ve been programmed and hard-wired since our childhood, as discussed in earlier posts. Whenever you get negative or unpleasant impressions of other people, give yourself a minute to figure out if those might be the result of a projection of yours. For example, I know someone who has worked all his life. He gets angry and disappointed at his partner for sleeping in late on a weekend. Keeping in mind the concept of projection, it is reasonable to believe my friend is angry at his partner for doing something he would love to do, but doesn´t dare to due to his programming. Do you see what I mean? "What isn´t in ourselves, doesn´t make us angry" is a loose translation of a German saying coined by Hermann Hesse. This may mean someone´s doing what you would like to do, and seeing it makes you angry. Or someone´s doing something that reminds you of a part of yourself you would like to get rid of.

Byron Katie is using this knowledge in the "turn-around" part of her concept "The Work". In the seminar we used it after receiving negative feedback from members of the group. That way, we did get valuable feedback about how we appear to others, definitely something to keep in mind, and at the same time the others learned something about themselves.

In the extreme, the theory of projection may be abused to fend off any criticism of ourselves, saying "it´s all in their imagination". Faithful readers know that that´s not what I´m about. The thought I want to leave you with this week is the following: the more you accept yourself, and are at peace with yourself, the less others will be able to put you off balance.

Til next time!