What Others Know About You

strengths3

“We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don’t know.” ~ W.H. Auden

Eleven years ago I met my first Life Coach. It was Jane who saw that my blocks and my direction were closely connected. We worked for some time to rediscover my direction. One early exploratory exercise that Jane invited me to pursue was to ask five people to describe me in short words/phrases.

Some time later I realized the purpose and benefit of this exercise. You see, most of us believe we know ourselves better than anyone else. And to measurable extents, this may be true. Yet when those five people replied with candid feedback, I read and learned of strengths that I did not clearly see or embrace.

There is a lot about us that we don’t notice or acknowledge because it’s simply who we are and how we’ve developed over years and through learning and experience. Yet there are often attributes/personal gifts/qualities that define us as seen (and known) by others!

strengths2

There is comfort in knowing how connected you are to your strengths. When confident in/with your personal gifts, you expand the potential by which you can impact others and effect favorable change. If you find yourself resenting what you’re doing or the way you are living, ask yourself if you are utilizing what you believe are your qualities and what others see in and know about you.

Some times tapping into what others know about you (that you don’t fully see) can awaken you to reconnect with a dream, with your heart or perhaps, with a new calling. New self-awareness may even inspire you to let go of what you perceive(d) as a strength, once you’ve adopted an even more valuable virtue(s).

strengths4

If the prospect of learning how others see you intrigues, I invite you to consider the exercise I embarked upon eleven years ago. It was revealing and the insight that was shared helped me to consider a new direction (and a more passionate focus!), simply because I sought candid input from people who knew me as well as I believed I knew myself.

Naming your personal gifts is unusual but the more exact the better. It is important in asking for words and phrases (not sentences) from respondents that they be honest, positively and negatively. The preliminary steps:

  1. Choose four people from among immediate family members, a close friend(s), former schoolmate, partner, spouse, colleague, supervisor (past of present). Aim for a mix from among all of these. The fifth source of input is yourself.
  2. Ask each of them (and yourself) to “Describe me as you know me,” “Describe me as you see me,” and/or “Describe me as you remember me.”
  3. Your lists will contain lots of words and phrases. When you have all of them, print (don’t type) them on a table.
  4. If/when you get this far and want to know what follows, let me know; I’ll craft a follow-on post. This involves some time and work. Yet the results can be quite telling. ūüôā

strengths6

Credit: Child playing piano / M-IMAGEPHOTOGRAPHY via Getty Images

Gucci, Pucci, Prada…

Gucci

“Once you label me, you negate me.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard

To label or not to label — that is the question. ¬†From a sales and marketing perspective, labels help to distinguish brands. They serve a product differentiation purpose. Labels can also benefit when used to identify or inform, to wit, nutritional labels on food packaging. I read those zealously.

Then there are cases where labels are used to highlight differences in people. We use them often without thinking, even if unuttered. Some examples:

  • right/wrong
  • introvert/extrovert
  • clean/dirty
  • ugly/beautiful
  • Type A/Type B
  • left-wing/right-wing
  • the list is, unfortunately, endless

Label Loser

Increasingly, it seems, we have an unhealthy compulsion to categorize. Between social media, the Internet and other quasi-anonymous platforms, people are becoming more obsessed with telling other people what their label is, supposedly so they’ll better understand and accept them/us.

Or consider stereotyping: how have the labels we placed kept others from truly being who they are meant and blessed to be? How much of life’s joy and goodness have we actually missed because our labels have masked us to what is actually within another person?

I, and likely you, have seen people get carried away with negative labeling. They become their label and the label (sadly, often) becomes their identity. They don’t know where the label ends and where they, the incredible being begins.

Label Toxic

Conversely, it’s rare that people get caught up in positive labeling. Surprisingly, many people are unable to cite a single positive for themselves. Try this: ask a few people, “What are your good qualities or character strengths?” Then notice their immediate reaction(s).

Reinforcing labels need to be nurtured, now more than ever. Why not consider using and promoting labels that describe positive human goals, worthwhile achievements, or an improvement in the human condition? She is healthy. He is educated, They are free!

Labeling Colors

What if each of us abandoned the negativity of personal, social, and political labels? Imagine our interactions and relationships when the differences we highlight and label are an individual’s unique qualities!

For your consideration, here are three exercises that could augment your label assigning awareness:

  1. ¬†When you catch yourself labeling someone, ask yourself, “Why did I do¬†that?” Be mindful that definitions belong to the definer, not the defined.
  2. ¬†Focus on intentionally using labels that positively reflect a person’s attributes.
  3.  When you observe someone doing something positive, label the strengths you observe them demonstrating.

Generational Differences

“Many ideas grow better when transplanted with another mind than the one where they sprang up.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

During the last decade, I’ve coached a diverse group of people. While my targeted client base¬†most often finds me working¬†with the “chronologically gifted” (a.k.a. Baby Boomers), I’ve enjoyed engaging with a¬†cross-generational mix, all of whom have benefitted from coaching collaborations.

As time passes, my understanding of and appreciation for generational differences has become increasingly important and pronounced. Quite often, I need to listen for what is not being said, as well as what is being verbalized. Listening is an essential coaching skill, as what is being expressed differs between generations.

This post scratches the surface of a fascinating area of study (at least to me). And I suspect I’ll write more about it in due course. Yet even a most cursory glance at the topic yields obvious spheres in which differences lie, including:

  • Cultural awareness
  • Technological adaptation
  • Social consciousness
  • Personal values
  • Willingness to change
  • Defining events (specific to each generation)
  • Trends
  • Meaningful experiences
  • Expectations
  • Preferences
  • and Wellness

In an ongoing quest to learn more about this subject, I recently found a 2009 University of Iowa (U.S.) School of Social Work research piece on Generational Diversity. Of course, there are hundreds of similar studies, so I glean from this with a grain of salt. Still, it presented some defining (and clarifying) characteristics of generational cohorts. One of the characteristics I found interesting was the core values associated with each of the four groupings.

The Silent Generation (born 1922-1946) has common among them a respect for authority, loyalty, hard work, and sacrifice for the common good; “Live to work versus work to live” was a generalized motto.

Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) grew up with a sense that security was taken care of – left room for exploration and protest; place high value on youth, personal gratification, health, and material wealth. They were/are generally optimistic, value hope and peace, and believe their generation changed the world.

Generation X¬†(born 1965-1980) desire balance in their lives. Diversity is viewed as norm, they’re motivated by money, self-reliant, value free time and having fun. They shifted the mantra to “Work to live, not live to work”; assumed gender equality in the workplace¬†and are the first generation to embrace the computer and Internet (you know, the tubes). ūüôā

Millennial Generation (born 1981-2000) has become the most globally oriented. They have a combined work ethic of Baby Boomers with the can-do attitude of the Silent Generation/Veterans and the technological savvy of Gen Xers. They value health, exercise and body adornment.

There are a plethora of qualities, attributes and tell tales aligned with each generation. And it’s not uncommon to see some of them bleed across one or more of the four. Ever shifting, this makes what I do to earn a living exciting and challenging. Just because I’m a Boomer doesn’t mean I always know how people from other generations are feeling, thinking¬†and acting.

In addition to ongoing change in attitudes and beliefs, our conscious deference to the uniqueness of generational differences¬†helps to keep communication channels open. It also¬†fosters heightened awareness of what and why different ‘things’ are valued across generations.

We are all in this together, aren’t we?