It can be really painful, and our first response is denial and rejection. Let’s also add in the excuse word because that provides a reason for that which is not good.
Examining who you are and who you have become is to see beyond the current you and to recognise the uniqueness and the potential you. If like me, you love lifelong learning and self-development, you may be familiar with your insights but not your outside effect on others. Let me share a story with you of Bruce.
Bruce was great at his job and mostly liked by others. He was calm in the eye of a storm and generous with his time. He was really comfortable in his own situation and skin. He had an incident with one of his staff. It was a battle over the interpretation of a policy both believing that they were right. Bruce took it a little too far one day as he determinedly persuaded Anne with his correct version of the interpretation.
When he received the formal bullying charge he was really surprised. He just never thought that his behaviour was in any way able to be interpreted as bullying. So, he was really upset when he came to see me. He took pride in how he treated all of his staff, in particular, the female staff who he respected.
I could see that Bruce has rather a strong self-righteous and maybe intimidating projection. So, I asked him to select two staff what were very safe and yet honest plus one friend or even better his daughter about what was not a good feature/s of him to allow him to learn and grow.
The rules were simple choose someone safe and honest (you know the person, they don’t gossip etc) and know that they will feel a little uncomfortable but they will do it especially if they see it will help. Plus sit silent, do not reply until the person has finished. Do not justify yourself and only ask what can I do that will improve the outcome.
The first person Bruce asked was a female who he had known for about 20 years, while uncomfortable she told Bruce “…you are intimidating because you have a silent, self-righteous attitude of which I brush aside because I know you”.
Well, Bruce was so shocked that he could not think of a question to ask so he thanked his college and asked the next one. Her reply was similar “your word is the only right word” and “you have a very big ego” “you intimidate others, so they don’t question you”. Bruce was not liking this feedback but persisted with the next person, this time his daughter of thirty years.
He told her “…you know I am seeking feedback because I have a complaint placed on me from one of my staff. I value your honest opinion so can you tell me what one thing is that I could improve upon?” She replied “…Oh, Dad, I love you and have no problems with you at all.” “Seriously…” Bruce said, “I need to know from you who I love, trust and whose opinion I cherish, please tell me.”
“Well ok Dad, you always have to be right, you make it your business to be the 'goto guy' for everything and pity anyone who challenges you about the way you do something.”
Bruce was so surprised by the consistent message from different people that he valued and trusted that he simply had to look beyond where his insight light was bouncing from. In doing so Bruce had to dig deep get honest with himself, acknowledge that while he had in the past felt the need to prove to his Dad that he was smart and able, that Bruce himself had formed a habit of providing that he was always right and in doing so projected a self-righteous and somewhat arrogant attitude/behaviour that triggered others to interpret him negatively.
The good news for Bruce was that he was not deemed as bullying, however, the insight journey he went on has increased is leadership skills and relationships with a number of people. Bruce found the positive learning from the negative situation. He was grateful to the person who brought it to his attention.