What Would THEY Say? A Remarkably Self-Revealing and Beneficial Personal Growth Experience
If you asked the ten people in my life who personally know me best to describe me to you – and they trusted you enough to do so - you’d hear some common themes in terms of both the strengths and challenges of my personality.
You’d likely hear that I’m driven, wise, kind, passionate, conscientious, confident and fun, but I can still be impatient, come off as pompous, be too sensitive, and I sometimes have a wild streak (some may position this last one as a positive, though.)
You’d also likely hear specific descriptions of me from each of the ten people that none of the others, or almost none of the others, provide.
Two of my best friends would describe me as highly competitive. Those women with whom I’ve had the most serious relationships in my life would call me extremely affectionate … but then they’d each have rather distinct things to say about my challenges. My grandmother and sister would describe me as a goofball. My son would describe me as intrepid. My mother … well, my mother is my mother, and if she trusted you she’d have PLENTY to say about my strengths and challenges that no one else would!
And the thing is, everything that the ten people who know me best would have to say about my strengths is absolutely right, and everything they’d have to say about my challenges is flat-out wrong.
And I’m kidding, of course. Almost everything they’d say about my challenges would be wrong. And I’m kidding again.
It’s actually not at all about right or wrong when it comes to what they’d say, even though my ego may try to resist that fact. Instead it is a matter of being aware of their perspectives on me, and employing these insights to further know myself and better thyself, and to also understand these other people more in order to further improve how I empathize and communicate with them.
The Gift of the Themes
Where themes emerge -- where several or more of those who know me best would describe the same strengths and especially the same challenges in my character – it is only wise and remarkably beneficial to my growth and health to:
A) Be grateful for their insights and the opportunity it presents
B) Consciously kick my pride and ego out of the room
C) Examine how and why I am being perceived as such … again especially regarding the challenges in my personality that have emerged as themes. Is what they are saying actually true? Or are there things I am doing or not doing that give the perception as such?
For example, I noted that most of the ten closest people in my life would describe me as impatient. That is not untrue. I have been working on improving this and am far more patient than I used to be, but with all the good I know I am able to do in this world, and with all I want to achieve and see, learning patience is one of my greatest challenges.
They’d also say I sometimes come off as pompous. Because this doesn’t correspond at all with how I view myself in relation to other people – everyone is a gift, and everyone has remarkable gifts to offer the world – it has allowed me to realize there must be things I do in certain situations that give the perception of being pompous.
Again if it is a common theme – and as much as my pride and ego might want to deny it – there is an opportunity there to understand and change myself for the better.
I’ve recognized, for example, that in certain group situations my thoughts, if sparked by something intriguing, can tend to wander off, making me appear disinterested and “above and beyond" the focus of the group versus present and engaged. There are other habits, too, I have discovered that can make me appear pompous in certain situations, and so I am very grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to become aware of this perception in order to work toward understanding and improving myself.
The Gift of the Particulars
Different people fill different roles in our life, of course. While I hug my best friends hello and goodbye, I am not going to be extremely affectionate with them as I am in a romantic relationship (no matter how much they insist!)
The key, though, is to be aware of these roles, and to consciously be choosing the particulars we are giving to and receiving from these important people in our lives.
If nine of the ten closest people in my life would all cite the same strength in me, why wouldn’t that one other person? Is this strength something that simply doesn’t surface given the nature of that specific relationship, OR could it be an aspect of myself that I am somehow shielding from this person? Why am I? Am I perhaps afraid they won’t accept that side of me? Do I consciously and contentedly accept that they don’t experience that side of me?
On the flipside, if one person would cite a challenge of mine that the others don’t, is this because I am giving that one person a side of me that I am giving no one else? Why am I doing that with them? Do I consciously and contentedly accept that? Do I want to change that in myself?
And if one person would cite a challenge of mine that no one else would, to what extent might this suggest something about their own character, their own challenges perhaps, versus (or in addition to) my own? Understanding this, can I therefore empathize with them more … and what do I choose to change in my approach with them in order to reduce that challenge and improve our relationship, since the only thing I can change is myself?
The Great Gift of the Gaps
This is perhaps most self-revealing and important of all: what strengths and challenges do I personally know I have that few or none of the ten closest people in my life would cite at all?
What are those gaps, and why are they there?
Is it because I am shielding certain aspects of myself from others, and if so why? And if I’d cite many more challenges in my own character than others would cite, is it just because we all tend to be our own worst critics?
What are the gaps between how others would describe you and how you would describe you? Why are they there?
I am blessed to have family and friends that care about me as deeply as I care about them. We communicate with one another deeply and honestly, and therefore how I would describe myself is mostly consistent with how they’d describe me.
However, perhaps only two or three out of the ten people I am closest to would describe me as very spiritual, while this is one of the first descriptions I would give of myself. This is a curious gap, as if you have been reading my free IntenseExperiences.com newsletter for a while or have read my books, listened to my audio programs or attended my seminars, it may well be one of the key ways you describe me, as well.
An aspect of me that “the public" would accurately and prominently describe is not what most of those I am personally closest to would cite? Hmmmm. Gap.
But is it a gap I am content with?
It is not that they would say I am not spiritual if asked; it is more so that I choose to live the spirituality through how I live my life versus talking about it on a personal basis, even with most of those who know me well. When I meditate and pray, I do so in solitude by choice.
Still, I am in the process of exploring if there may be some shielding of this deeply spiritual side with some of those I am closest to for some reason; perhaps with my male best friends, for example, there may still be remnants of the young boy in me who thought his friends would think he was “uncool" if he displayed this spiritual side of him.
The Big Epiphanies Exercise for You
And so with all you just read in heart and mind, what follows is an exercise that so far has always provided people epiphanies and prompted positive change, whether I have presented it to groups or one-on-one with my life coaching clients.
1) Put yourself in a place of solitude where you are highly unlikely to be influenced or distracted by anything (so shut off your cell phones or even better, keep them away!) Bring paper and a pen. Give yourself an hour or so, and make sure you are as relaxed as possible. Have a cup of tea on hand, meditate, take some deep clearing breaths … do whatever you need to do to best clear your head and heart of any external baggage. (You deserve this relaxation anyway!)
2) Consider who the five to ten people closest to you are. Write down how you believe they would each succinctly describe you. if someone they trusted to openly share with (other than you, and without you present) asked them to do so. What greatest character strengths and challenges (or “issues," “faults" or however they’d define it) would they cite?
3) In terms of both strengths and challenges, what recurring themes do you see in many or all of their descriptions of you? Examine each of these themes and ask yourself if they are each true, or discover what it is you are or aren’t doing that gives the impression to others that it is. Do you want to change this? How will you change this? (Reread “The Gift of the Themes" above.)
4) What descriptions of you that only one or a few people have do you see? Why would they be describing you as such when others don’t? What might this suggest about you, your relationship with them, and about them? (Reread “The Gift of the Particulars" above.)
5) How would you succinctly describe your own strengths and challenges, and where are there gaps? What descriptions of yourself would no one or almost no one else who knows you well cite too? Is this intentional and something you are content with, or is it possible you are shielding that trait from others for some reason? (Reread “The Great Gift of the Gaps" above.)
6) This step is optional, but for some it provides the most revealing insights of all. When you have gone through all the steps above, actually ASK the five or ten who are closest to you how they would succinctly describe your greatest character strengths and challenges to someone they trusted and could be open with. Tell them to please be honest (and commit to each of them and yourself to keep your ego and its need to defend or protest out of the equation! Be careful, it can be quite insistent!)
Then see how accurately what you believed they would say matches what they actually say. If and where there are differences, are you surprised? What more does this teach you about yourself? What more does it teach you about them? And what do you intend to do with these remarkably valuable insights to improve yourself, and your relationships?
I believe you too will be pleasantly surprised at what you discover and the benefits you can achieve with this exercise. Please think about anyone else you know who could benefit from this exercise and email it on to them.
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