I like being in charge of things, situations and circumstances that I am involved in. It’s why I don’t like surprises, why I don’t like travelling either by air, sea or road especially when I am not in the driver’s seat. It’s one of the reasons I hold out against God for as long as I do. It’s why I can be so inflexible at times. I like to come to my decisions by myself and don’t like leaving the reins of my life in the hands of others but it took a while for me to understand and accept that what I thought as being responsible for, and being protective of myself and loved ones was interpreted as controlling.
My aha moment came about during a discussion with an older male friend of mine who wondered aloud in our conversation, how Mr Aisi coped with me especially with my penchant for control. His statement took me by surprise because I never would have described myself as someone who always liked to have my way and control other people, I admitted that I liked to insist on my point of view but control, Never!!!! As far as I was concerned, I was a firm believer in allowing people to make their choices but his statement led to a lot of retrospection on my part and though at first it was hard to accept, I gradually began to see why Mr Aisi and my children thought I could be controlling.
I am an advocate for being one’s self and nothing will ever change that, our impressions of ourselves matter a lot and the most important voice we should listen to after God and our conscience is our voice and not that of others. However, what people think about us should also matter not only because it can be validating and help boost our self-esteem, expose our weaknesses and sore points, is feedback as to enable us know if what we are projecting on the outside matches what we feel or are, on the inside, most importantly because it becomes our reputation.
So, it just may be that while you think you come across as confident, people see you as arrogant, or that where you think you are not good enough people see you as a perfectionist. A shy and reserved person may find out that she is seen as proud and haughty and a strong willed person may come across as bossy.
Do we ever wonder how people see us and if their impression of us affects their behavior towards us even though thier impression may be wrong?
I know someone who I consider to be controlling and very bossy (it takes one to know one you may say) mainly because whenever she sees me she has something to say (mostly with a tone of disapproval or so I think) about my manner of behaviour, dressing or hairstyle. At first I took it in my stride, but I increasingly became wary as I noticed she rubbed me the wrong way whenever she made her comments, so instinctively, my first reaction was always defensive and dismissive whenever she spoke. The knowledge that she made those statements because she felt free enough with me to make them and that she was not trying to nor could she make me conform to her expectations has made me start to take her statements in good faith although I am still of the opinion that she is bossy and expresses herself forcefully which makes me take an unusual (for me) firm stance with her. Of a truth, how people perceive us affects their behavior towards us.
There is no denying that we all have blind spots either of our strengths or our weaknesses and many times it takes other people to point them out to us. Some years back, I carried out a SWOT test on myself using responses to questions I had asked of myself, family members, friends, colleagues at work and subordinates. The exercise opened my eyes as
to how people viewed me and to my surprise I found out that they exposed many treasures in me that I didn’t even know I possessed. It was from that analysis that I realised that although I ran from leadership roles believing myself to be better equipped to assist the leader, fate had put me in so many leadership roles and people thought I had several qualities of a good leader, that I was somewhat of an influencer and that people listened when I speak or recommend things, products and events, that I was resourceful and the go to person amongst my circle of friends and that I could be determined when I wanted something.
I agree that some of the responses could have been biased or incorrect and some feedback we will get will be coloured from the lenses people view us with, but feedback when given properly lends credence to the fact that people tend to see in us what we cannot see in ourselves whether for the good or bad.
The best way to get feedback is to ask for it and I must say that I enjoy listening to people’s recollections of me especially when I was much younger, mostly because I don’t remember much but because I like to know what people think of me and if the behaviour I exhibit today had been innate for a while. So some days back, I asked a friend from secondary school to give me her impression of how I was in school and her description was somewhat like this – you were friendly and without airs but could talk one’s ears off when in the mood. She added though that she never wanted to be with me if we were serving punishment because I would always ask questions or say something true but rude to the senior punishing us that would make the punishment steeper in spite of pleas from my friends to stop digging the hole.
I laughed a lot at her reminiscences because she described me to a T. I certainly had a knack for stirring trouble by speaking the truth when confronted and knowing that has made me all the more cautious when I speak to people as I try to be as inoffensive and objective as possible while speaking the truth.
Although we may not be able to control what and how people think of us, to a large extent, we provide the material by which they see us and that material need not be verbal, it could be in the tone we use, our gait, our nuances or even our posture.
The truth is that what people think of us is our reputation and if we want to have a good reputation then we should be mindful of how people see us. I must lend a note of caution though, not every feedback is helpful and we should be careful about asking people whose feedback will damage rather than help us.
Also, no matter what we do or do not do, everybody will not have a positive impression about us as we will always be the villain in someone’s story but we can ensure that the majority of the people that matter have good impressions of us. Feedback helps us align who we are internally with what we project externally and helps us build on our strengths, identify our weaknesses and work towards eliminating them.
So, for those who say it doesn’t matter what people think about me, please re-think, as what people think about us matters a lot and is what will be remembered when our name is mentioned. Let’s ensure as much as we possibly can that we leave a good taste in people’s mouth.