One of the hardest things I have to do as a coach, editor, partner, intuitive and simply as a woman who needs to be able to look myself in the mirror every day, is to tell people things they don’t want to hear.
As an empath who also feels others emotions physically move through me — even if I’m only reading their words on a screen — it’s especially hard. It’s one thing to know someone is upset. It’s another to feel their emotions so intensely that it makes you want to throw up.
That’s what it was like this weekend for me.
To be honest, I’ve attempted to avoid those scenarios. I could say it was to spare them, but the real truth is that I wanted to spare myself from having to feel their emotions while knowing that I was the cause of it.
That’s the worst.
I’ve tried other solutions, like keeping my mouth shut. There are times when that’s appropriate, but in the long run, it’s usually lead to me wishing I’d tried to find a way to speak up. Quite often, they have wound up even angrier at me for NOT speaking up when I knew something that might have helped — even if it was hard to say at the time.
I’ve hinting at things hoping they’d figure it out on their own. The reality is, if they were going to see it on their own, they likely would have already. We all see things differently. We need others’ views. What I see will naturally be different from others, so those attempts usually fail. Besides, they’re exhausting.
If I have the time, the ability to interact personally, and am in the position to do it, I have found that asking the right questions will often lead someone into seeing what I’m seeing. Unfortunately, this can be a rare situation, requires quite a bit of time, and isn’t fool-proof.
And then there are the times when it’s quite literally my job to be honest, direct, and tell it like I see it. I make every effort to be gentle, tactful, and yet still make sure the information is clear, but I have no control over how they’ll take it.
No matter how we slice it, telling someone something we KNOW they don’t want to hear is hard. It sucks. It can tie us up in knots, and leave us feeling icky and lousy for hours, days — or even longer — afterward.
And if you’re an empath who feels others emotions as personally and intimately as you do your own, it’s ten times worse.
Yet, it’s the right thing to do and we need to do it.
If anything, we need to practice doing it more so that we can build a culture that helps people have more open, honest, direct conversations about the things that really matter.
Bosses need to be able to hear from their employees in order to run the business effectively.
Clients need to be able to hear from their coaches, consultants, and mentors so that they can make better decisions.
Friends and family members need to hear each other in order to continue to mature, grow and evolve as people.
We ALL need to be able to hear views, opinions, and truths that rattle us, shake us up, and challenge everything we thought in order to continue to grow, evolve, and ultimately, mature into beings who can create a world that works for everyone.
Notice, NONE of this means I’m convincing anyone of anything. It’s about being able to create a space in which everyone is comfortable, respected, and heard when they have a view that’s challenging for others. It’s NOT about everyone being in agreement.
We must learn how to separate the ability to discuss ideas from the inner need to “win” or get agreement.
Whether we like it or not, those listening always retain the right to agree, disagree, ask questions, or make whatever choice they choose based on the information they deem most relevant at the time. But without ALL of the information and perspectives, that choice may not be the best it could be.
Over the weekend, I received an order to review a book. When I review books, the fee involved covers my time and energy. It in no way “buys the review”. I make no guarantees except that I’ll be honest and as specific as I can be, and I have that in writing on the order page. When I come across things I believe need work, I always make the effort to accompany my feedback with potential solutions as well.
I have a feeling the client missed those details before placing the order and expected only the most positive comments to be made.
When I reviewed the book, I saw some things in it that I believed needed to be corrected or the author’s intention would be entirely missed, and in fact the book could be interpreted to be promoting exactly the opposite of what the author intended.
When I shared my review — which included things that were really wonderful about the book as well as the area that needed work and ideas for solutions — it was clear the author was well beyond not happy about it and took it quite personally.
Being a public figure as the co-host of a radio show, as well as having written blogs and articles posted in newspapers that attractive opinions of all sorts, I’ve had to learn the hard way how NOT to take things personally.
It’s hard. Especially when what you’re sharing is so close to your heart. Our books are our creative babies and we want everyone to love and adore them as much as we do!
But they don’t. They won’t.
And, we’re biased. We each exist within a bubble of our own making. Our friends and family support us and may not see what strangers will see or they’re unwilling to tell us for some reason.
We may or may not have real access to people who challenge us to see through others’ eyes until we put our work out into the world publicly — and then it can be a hard pill to swallow.
There are a few things I’ve learned though about others’ feedback, regardless of what it is:
1.There are those who will love your work no matter what. There are those who will hate your work no matter what. And there are those in the middle who are seeking to learn about your work and haven’t yet made up their minds.
Our readers are the ones who love us, and the ones who haven’t made up their minds yet. If we’re open to feedback that helps us be better writers, and be more clear about our message, we’ll be able to reach those in the middle more effectively, and grow our audience more quickly. If we’re not, there’s a good chance our work will never move outside our bubble.
2. ALL comments are feedback. Nothing more. Nothing less. They are a little snippet of the world through someone else’s eyes. When I remember to say to myself, “That’s an interesting view of the world. Thank you for sharing it with me,” it allows me to take it less personally and be able to glean whatever insight might be available to me.
And saying that for EVERY comment — the ones we love and the ones that rattle us — helps us create a healthy level of detachment that allows us to continue to develop our craft, rather than simply seeking popularity or fame.
It also positions it as what it really is: They’re someone else’s thoughts. They’re not my truth.
3. Once I have it positioned correctly, I can then ask a few important questions:
A. Is this feedback about something I missed and need to pay more attention to in some way in order to serve a greater number of people?
B. Is this person part of my audience or simply a troll strolling by?
C. How might I use this feedback in some way to help me be a better writer, radio show host, coach, or human being (or whoever you choose to be)?
D. Is this feedback something I choose to integrate in some way to improve my work, or do I want to stand by things as they are even knowing this is how it’s viewed?
We ALWAYS have the choice.
We live in a world where everyone has the opportunity to tell us what they think, and right now, it’s all-too-often divisive. Maybe because that person is having a bad day, a bad month, or a bad year, and they’re exhausted — who isn’t this year? Maybe because that person didn’t know how else to say it and they don’t realize that 95% of communication is lost in text formats. Maybe it really is because they’re a jerk… but I doubt it. I believe the vast majority of people are, in some way, doing the best they can with what they have and want to make the world better in whatever way “better” looks to them.
We all have our human days.
And, we can all learn from each other in some way.
For me, this experience has affirmed what I already knew and believed: telling the truth is going to piss people off, but if I’m going to be able to live with myself at the end of the day, I need to do it anyway.
It’s going to suck. It’s going to feel nauseating. It’s going to be hard at times. Ideally, those I share my truth with are able to hear it, but I have no control over that.
That’s OK. I’d rather keep my empathy and compassion, and allow it to grow than to cut it off. I’d rather face the world authentically, than to ever go back to hiding out, staying small and ultimately doing no one any good.
What I’ve come to believe is that if we’re not pissing a few people off at least once in a while, we’re not playing big enough yet.
So, be honest. Tell your truth. Do it with as much grace, compassion, dignity and respect as you possibly can so that the truth itself may shine through and lead the way. Let go of how others respond (yes, that’s far more easily said than done and will require ongoing practice).
Be the best you that you can be (and give yourself the grace to let that look different each day).
In the end, others will come and go in our lives, but we will always have the person in the mirror to live with. Learn to be true to Her, offer your authenticity as a gift that others may accept or or not, but always and in all ways bless them on their way.
As Jack Canfield once said, “Some will. Some won’t. So what. Someone’s waiting.”
Until next time…
Keep Rising my Friends!
Lori Anne Rising is the international award-winning author of “You. Rising! Reclaim Your Life. Live Your Purpose.” She’s also a digital nomad, intuitive empath, author coach, and co-host of the weekly radio show, “Rise ‘n Shine! Not Just for Mornings Anymore.” Her writing and conversations challenge old paradigms, bring light to dark places, and reconnect women with the W.O.W. in our lives — our Wise One Within — opening doors to living a life that sets our souls ablaze! Books, links, and more are available on her website at www.LoriAnneRising.com