The visiting consultants had the room arranged as seminar attendees walked into the training session. I heard a nervous buzz as the students observed video taping equipment plugged in and ready to go.
You could hear a collective sigh of relief when one of the two trainers said, “Oh, don’t worry about the camera. That isn’t for you. I am video taping myself today to show to my staff. They want to be ensured that I am doing a good job.”
Wow. Here was the president of the fourteen-employee business who had the humility to publicly examine the quality of his own work.
That incident led to a lunch-time discussion a few days later in which I made the following observation, “Periodically, someone asks me to read something that he or she has written and offer my opinion on what changes could be made to improve it. When I agree to do so, however, it becomes clear very soon which of the two types of people they are:
1). A budding author who truly wants to become better and is willing to accept some blunt criticism; or
2). Someone whose real agenda is to get an ‘atta boy’ or ‘atta girl’ but becomes defensive or resentful if I am totally honest.”
My lunch companions agreed that this often happens in their respective worlds when asked for an opinion. As long as they are able to say complimentary things, everyone is a happy camper. On the other hand, criticism is frequently met with open hostility.
This attitude puts the person being asked for an opinion in a no-win situation. For example, no has ever been able to successfully respond to, “Do you think this dress makes my butt look fat?”
So this essay is not directed toward the person being asked for an opinion.
Rather, it is for those of us who would benefit by being the one doing the asking. Non-defensively. Humbly. With an attitude of appreciation toward someone trying to help make us better at what we do.
Take a chance on getting your feelings hurt. Trust me—those injured feelings will heal and you’ll be ahead of the game by seeking an honest evaluation from someone who cares. Set up that VCR or tape recorder to see and/or hear yourself. Coach yourself or ask someone to do it for you. Swallow your pride and benefit from someone else’s point of view. You will be glad that you did.
Bill Sheridan—SHERIDAN WRITES: Bio under Guest Authors
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