This is something that I think about most every time I begin writing a new post. If you don’t know me, then maybe you would consider the fact that I am a master of the field I’m talking about (bow to your sensei). The laughter you may hear while reading this are the people that do know me and can’t contain their utter amusement at this thought.
A few years back, my employer tagged me in putting together a conference for our office. One of my tasks was to provide speakers for this multi-day event. In order to be fiscally responsible, I looked to the office staff that could put on certain classes, versus finding and paying speakers to come to our conference location. Thinking I was doing a great thing, I told my boss about this and waited for a quick pat on my head, along with the accompanying “atta’ boy” that I assumed would ensue. Nope.
My boss told me to go ahead and work on getting speakers from outside the organization to come to our event. In this instance, he told me that though we did have the same talent among our own staff, they would take the topic information better from someone from the outside.
I considered this, even thinking about how I would accept information from my coworkers versus an outsider. In my mind, it would be easier to accept the expertise of the outside individual. Why? More than anything it would be due to the fact that I’m not familiar with the outsider and their specific shortcomings. I wouldn’t be judging every word they said with such a critical eye.
Unfair? Probably. Realistic? More than likely. Fair? Uh, no.
Why do we poke holes in those around us and critically hold up their words to their actions? Human nature?
There is a saying, in various forms and from a number of individuals, related to a person’s actions being louder than the words they are speaking. The words being spoken, even if just stating undeniable facts, can be overshadowed by knowing their character. Here’s a little example.
If I were to stand up in front of a group of my coworkers and tell them that eating healthy and exercising regularly is an important part of leading a healthy life, what do you think the response would be? “I saw him eating a cinnamon roll in the break room yesterday morning.” “Doesn’t he talk about having an addiction to chocolate, and then laughs about it?” “He could stand to lose a few pounds.”
Match those up to me going and speaking to another group of people that know nothing of me, or my love of chocolate, and the occasional cinnamon roll. These people are more likely to take me seriously and even come up after my speech to talk about how to work on these things or to share their successes with me. Why do they do this? Because they can more easily assume that I’m an infallible Jedi talking about these things, they don’t know me, or the fact that I’m more like Jar Jar Binks.
Why are we so quick to judge others? Why do we need to find the little cracks in peoples characters? Is this to make ourselves feel better? And in all truthfulness, does it make us feel better? Nah.
Though it may make us feel a little vulnerable, what if we were to look at everything with a “glass half-full” attitude? This thought process sounds a little naive. It does as I’m writing this. And with being naive, there comes a certain sense of vulnerability. I’m not talking about “head in the clouds” naivety, but a simple “giving someone the benefit of the doubt” naivety.
This makes me think of a previous boss I had that made a great statement to me when we were talking about a client. I was questioning the truthfulness of what a client was telling me, trying not to be naive and protecting my sense of vulnerability. His simple advice, “Trust, then verify.” Give the person the benefit of the doubt, then verify what they are telling you. He told me those words over 15 years ago, and they still resonate with me to this day.
And truthfully, following this advice has made my life easier (when I’ve consciously followed it).
Sometimes I hold up my friends and family to a standard that is higher than strangers around me. Maybe it’s because I have higher expectations of these people. Maybe it’s because I am most emotionally vulnerable with this group of people. It could be due to the fact that I care about what they think and feel about me; again being vulnerable.
Trust, then verify.
But with my family and friends, should trust be enough? Do we need the emotional strength to simply trust? Yes, yes we do. I’m not talking about blatant denial. I’m talking about giving those people around us that benefit of the doubt that they deserve, mainly from having a track-record with us. Are we making ourselves vulnerable? Absolutely. But in that vulnerability, we are opening up ourselves to stronger relationships with those around us. Occasionally a relationship may falter; life. We may be hurt by the actions/words of another; again, life. We have two choices in this regard though, building shallow relationships, or building deeper, meaningful relationships.
Though the shallow relationships may be easier to recover from, the deeper relationships create friendships and bonds that keep your glass half-full. If you try and dunk your Oreo into the top half of an empty glass, guess what, it never tastes as good and you’re missing out on one of life’s greatest treats.
Originally published at Man Ramblings.