We all have a blind spot. You know I’m right, because like everyone else, you’ve probably had more than one moment when, for example:
- You’ve said something and immediately thought, “That sounded SO much better in my head!”
- You’ve seen yourself in a selfie video seconds after recording it and thought, “What was I doing with my face (or hands, or hair, or…)?”
- You’ve made a comment that was interpreted very negatively, and wondered, “How did you get THAT from what I said?!”
These are just a few examples that offer evidence of the blind spot: the undeniable gap between three identities:
- The way we WANT to be seen by the world (our ideal self)
- The way we THINK we are seen (considering the strengths and weaknesses we recognize in ourselves, and believe others recognize in us)
- The way we are ACTUALLY seen by others (what people actually think – and say – about us, but we don’t know it. The selfie video offers a BIG clue into that one!)
Now, there are countless reasons for the gap, many of which are discussed in my book Speaking to Influence: Mastering Your Leadership Voice, along with ways to close the gap (which, of course, is the purpose of the book in the first place.)
But one predictably powerful cause for the gap is when we respond to something from an emotional state rather than a calm, objective one. After all, who among us hasn’t had “sender’s remorse” after firing off an angry email and instantly wishing we could take it back?
And yet, there certainly IS a time and place for a measured degree of emotion – sometimes a LARGE measure, for that matter.
Ultimately, the key is to be intentional in your communication, and when possible, to have a second, objective person read through your draft (or hear you out orally) to give you some feedback on your messaging before you pick up the phone, join the meeting, or click the “send” button.
That critical combination is a big part of what was discussed in this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast, with Virgil Sheppard of the Hope Partnership for Education.
As president and CEO of a unique educational organization seeking to elevate some of the most economically disadvantaged and vulnerable communities in the city by serving children and adults alike, Virgil shares how critically important it is for him to be intentional about his communication with all stakeholder groups, from students, families and employees, to partnership organizations, sponsors and beyond.
In our conversation, we explored a particularly sensitive balancing point:
- The need to impress upon sponsors and supporters exactly how unique and extreme the challenges are that are faced by the students admitted to the Hope Partnership for Education school. These children have been statistically identified by third grade as the ones who are already most at risk of dropping out of school for myriad awful reasons. That's why it’s important to support Hope Partnership’s mission, to ensure a very different, and much brighter future for these students.
- And the need to NOT let those challenges and differences DEFINE them, but rather honor and dignify each and every student and family, helping the world see them as the same as anyone else, with the same hopes and dreams of a better future, deserving of the same opportunities, and capable of becoming the same kind of meaningfully productive members of and contributors to the community.
When these issues also intersect with issues of race, gender, immigration status, home language, creed and more, needless to say, this balance gets even more tenuous, and it becomes even MORE important to avoid communicating impulsively when emotions are high.
That’s also when it's crucial to have a second pair of eyes or ears preview the message before it is sent out to the masses.
Then ask yourself: Where might it be worth seeking a bit of objective feedback on an email you want to send, or a conversation you want to have, in order to shed some light on your blind spot, and help you see your way to a clearer path to a positive outcome?