Recently I was invited to a workshop I was not interested in. An acquaintance sent me a personal note inviting me. She also mentioned a project we had worked on together. I felt compelled to respond, to relive old times about the project. About the new workshop, I told her it sounded exciting, for her.
She responded with paragraphs of information about how the workshop would be exciting for me too. She suggested we get together for coffee so we she could provide more clarity. She felt certain that once I understood better I would want to attend. I felt put off by the assumptions she made.
Now I was in a pickle. The stakes were a little higher because she had gone to the effort to make a stronger case. I was going to have to be more direct in turning down her offer. Awkward.
I was fussing about this with a trusted friend. It sounded like this. Me: “Can you believe how presumptuous this woman is being? Now, I have to shut her down, and I’m peeved and tempted to straighten her out because she made some pretty big assumptions.”
My friend asked me simply, “Why weren’t you more clear to begin with?” Me: “I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.” Friend: “You mean you didn’t respect her enough to handle your rejection.”
(Whaaaaaa? Imagine the sound of a record player needle screeching across a vinyl record.)
That brought me up short. Was I being disrespectful? Hmmmmm. Maybe I was even being a little cowardly. I wanted her to “get the hint” without being clear. I wanted her to go away while I could still think of myself as “nice.” I had created more discomfort by avoiding discomfort. I know it’s not a coincidence that I preach on precisely this topic every chance I get.
My friend’s reaction reminded me of this Dale Carnegie nugget, “Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.” I blew it. I had expected my acquaintance to handle my reply badly. I sidestepped a clear, authentic response and made a mess.
Learning my lesson.
I recalled this situation today when I was feeling annoyed that I hadn’t heard from a few people about some projects we have hanging in limbo. I wanted to say, “You know, if you don’t want to proceed, just tell me.” I was thinking: What on earth would stop them? Not wanting to hurt my feelings? Not knowing how to “reject” the situation and feel okay about it? Well, yeah. Maybe. I get it now. Again. It’s more difficult than it looks.
We teach what we need to learn, and today I learned I have to go deeper with my practice of courage, compassion and respect.
How about you? What lesson could you go deeper with, that would improve your life, and leadership?
Image: Microsoft Clipart