"We protect ourselves against ourselves…"
That thought came to me the other day----we protect ourselves against ourselves.
And here’s how it came about.
There’s a person in my neighborhood that walks frequently. I’ve notice that when she walks, she is very intentional about getting out of the way of cars on the road. Her movement is almost exaggerated to watch; she’s clearly concerned about the possibility of getting clipped as a car passes. I’ve noticed this for a long time and never really thought much about it.
Until the other day.
I was driving down the road when I noticed that the car behind me was 1) very close to the rear of my car and 2) going quite fast and 3) happened to be the neighbor of the previous observation.
And that’s when the above sentence popped into my head—“We protect ourselves against ourselves.”
Now it could be true that at some point she did get hit by a passing car; I actually don’t know whether that’s a fact.
But on a purely observational basis, I think her dramatic behavior says something more. I think, beneath her conscious awareness, it says, “I know what I do (speed, tailgate, etc.) when I drive, and I prepare myself because others are doing the same.”
This person is not unusual and I am in no way judging her. We all engage in this behavior from time to time. We project onto others what we would do or not do, what we would say or not say, believing that the same is true for them. But in fact, we cannot know what they would do or say, and holding that expectation or anticipation taints our interactions with them. Further, it causes frustration and disappointment for both sides.
People are the culmination of their own journeys and experiences. They bring to all interactions what has worked for them in the past. Nothing more or less.
When we meet people where they are, rather than we are, we can have more authentic interactions, whether in professional or in personal relationships. We listen to them when they speak (rather than just hearing them) and we process what they’re saying quite differently as well. In short, it creates a safe feeling for others.
And even more specifically, we actually understand them, rather than interpret what they’re saying through our own filters and individual expectations.
I invite you to experiment with this more intentional way of interacting. Notice how the energy changes. Notice what you notice about the differences. And as always, send me a note and share what you’ve learned. And stay curious!
NEWS: If you’re looking for an off-site experience for your team, mark your calendar for May 14, 2018. I’m teaming up with Ken Altenbach of Team Building US for "Unbridled Leadership," for a unique half-day, hands-on experience that will change how you view, create and utilize leadership. I’ll have the all the details on my site shortly, but if you’re keen for this type of event, please email me directly (you can simply hit reply from this page) to hold your spot since space is limited. Price per person is $399 with a discount for groups of two or more. Stay tuned for more info on this.
Martha Beck-certified life coach, Equus coach, Penn State journalism instructor and professional writer.