The other day I was in a group chat with some of my closest friends. I wrote an offside comment about Kate Mara, one of the actresses in House of Cards, saying "Zoe Barnes: Skeleton with hair? Discuss". That's a gross exaggeration and I don't really care what she looks like one way or the other — my intent was simply to get everyone talking and talk about what I was watching at the time. What you intend is less important than what actually gets conveyed.
In hindsight, that wasn't a very gracious comment to make, but let's set that aside for now.
The discussion devolved from there, and reached the point where my friend made the statement that I was close-minded.
I didn't like that.
My first impulse was to metaphorically eviscerate him and let him bleed out. (That's what my Survival Mechanism does when I get hurt). But I've done some work, and I know that's not really the highest reflection of who I am. Besides, I've done enough of this work to know that if I have a reaction, there's something going on.
The first thing I saw I needed to do was get complete. Any response I made while I was incomplete and holding energy around what my firend had said was going to be tainted with that energy.
You've noticed this right?
Like when someone demands an apology from you, but you're still holding that they did something wrong and it's not your fault and they should be apologizing to you dammit! That's what it's like when you're incomplete. Even if you do try to apologize, there's not a lot of sincerity behind it.
So I took on doing some completion work. I sat down and asked myself the same questions I would ask a client, inviting them to take responsibility for the way things had gone, and to look and see what they could see for themselves.
I finished the completion, and everything, but still...
"Seriously, fuck that guy for saying that!"
Hmm. Okay, maybe I needed a little bit of time.
So I took some more time, and then ran through completion again on my flight to San Diego. Sometimes you need to work through something a couple of times before you're willing to fully let go. So I did more completion, and sat back. Our plane disembarked, and ...
"Goddammit, fuck that guy! How could he say that?"
What the heck was going on here? What was I hanging on to?
Ultimately, completion (and forgiveness) is a choice. We get to choose to forgive something — to hold that they never did anything wrong in the first place. That's what makes completion powerful. Working ourselves out to the point that we don't need anything from the other person, because we can simply take full ownership of the way things went. (That's a powerful place to come from).
[Tweet "Ultimately completion and forgiveness are a choice, and have nothing to do with the other person."]
If completion was a choice, I was clearly unwilling to make that choice.
This weekend, I finally got complete, with the help of some of my colleagues.
Here's the thing: I go to great lengths to be open-minded. I'm tolerant of religious beliefs, race, sexual choices, ways of doing things, job choices, alcohol and drug choices, and a whole range of other things. It's a point of pride for me that I don't judge people for these things.
But you know what?
I'm also not. Sometimes I'm just flat-out close-minded and judgmental.
My friend just happened to hit me in the blindspot. I couldn't own the fact that sometimes I'm narrow-minded and judgmental. It's not that I'm a bad person for being those ways. It's just a part of who I am. And I struggle to own that part of myself. When someone else reflects it to me, on purpose or inadvertently, I fight back. I get triggered and react.
I shared a similar story with someone the other week, and they asked me "Yah, but how do you know it wasn't just the other person's reaction?"
First of all, it might very well have been his reaction. But who cares? What really matters is that I had a reaction. To simply dust my hands of it and chalk it off to my friend having some kind of issue removes any ability on my own part to take ownership of what went down. It lets me off the hook and frees me from being responsible. So what if my friend was reacting himself? Noticing that doesn't provide me anything (other than perhaps more judgment).
Second, I know that it wasn't just my friend reacting because, again, I had a reaction. Any time you experience a reaction to something that happened, it serves as an indication that you've got some stuff at play. If I didn't have any energy around what he was saying, there wouldn't be any issue. I'd have laughed it off, or simply ignored it.
Being a powerful leader and/or coach means actually taking ownership of your stuff, even when you really don't want to ("seriously, fuck that guy"), and working yourself out so that you can actually develop, instead of letting yourself off the hook.
Here's the best part. Now that I've had this blindspot reflected to me, I can start to actually own my judgments and narrow-mindedness, and instead of it being hidden from me. I can take an active role in deciding whether or not I want to go down that path. Sometimes, my judgments serve me very well. There are times when judging someone lets me avoid all kinds of bad situations. There are other times when it prevents me from getting to know someone that might turn out to be a life-long friend, or even simply be exposed to a new point of view.
So in the end, what my friend provided me, unintentionally, was the opportunity to see something new for myself and actively work on it.
That's the path to power and leadership.
UPDATE: My friend just graciously pointed out to me that he didn't even call me close-minded - I just inferred that from what was said. This is the nature of blindspots. It doesn't even matter if it's true or not — something just needs to look like that which lies in our blindspot, and our Survival Mechanism reacts to it.
Think back to more recent time you got taken out by something someone said. What part of your blindspot might that have been reflecting to you? Write a comment and share with us — please.
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