September 28, 2016
In an On Being article Courtney Martin asked herself the question: “What are the three words you would like people to use to describe you when you’re not in the room?”
This sounded like a great exercise, so I did it. Here are mine:
Anybody who’s followed my blog for a while has probably noticed that I write a lot about listening. How to listen, why it matters, how hard it is, and how much I at times suck at it. So although any number of people will tell you I’m a really good listener (which of course, at times, I am), sometimes I get lost in my own mind, which makes it difficult for me to give you the full attention I think you deserve.
So number one on my list of what do I want to hear people saying about me when I’m not in the room is: ‘She makes me feel like I really matter’, which will let me know that with them I was the kind of listener I want to be.
Number two is something that I’m not even sure I can put into words. It’s about being humble. I think humility is slippery. I want to be humble enough that when I start feeling full of myself (which, incidentally, tends to be when I’m not listening very well), I will notice it happening and can reel myself back in.
Humility is a characteristic that I struggle to understand. Although it’s a trait that sounds wildly attractive to me, I wrangle with it conceptually. The moment someone says, “I’m humble”, they’ve just come out as the least humble person in the room, right?!
So even though I don’t really understand humility, I want it. I’ll just tuck it away as a hopeful development and focus on being less full of myself. I wonder if anyone will notice?
The third one has caused me the most discomfort over my lifetime. I’m stealing the word from Courtney’s article. I’ve always wanted to be more ‘edgy’. In my head this one covers a lot of ground – be more creative, take more risks, be more fun! Like Courtney, I’m pretty sure ‘edgy’ isn’t going to be on the tip of anyone’s tongue at my memorial service. I’ve been pretty introspective and serious all my life. ‘What’s it all about, Alfie’ could be my theme song. And serious is not usually considered synonymous with fun or edgy!!
Someone once said, ‘I don’t think you can take the therapist out of Robyn just because she’s not in a therapy session”. I thought that was awful – it seemed to nail me as disappointingly one-dimensional and boring. But then he clarified what he meant. He said, “I mean you’re driven and passionate about people and relationships and you don’t just turn that off when you leave the therapy room”. From that perspective I realized it’s probably one of the truest things about me. Whether you’re a family member, a friend, a client, or an acquaintance who will only be in my life for a little while, I REALLY want to know you and understand what makes you uniquely you. I care about whether or not you feel heard and valued.
I’ll be bold and add a fourth word, and it is:
So this inherent passion that drives me to be a better listener, and to be less full of myself, has actually helped me be more creative in my relationships, pushed me to take risks, and at times, be more fun and ‘edgy’. It’s also given me lots of practice around handling mistakes because sometimes I get carried away with my own enthusiasm, all of which puts me back in touch with the humility thing!
What are three (or four) things you want people to say about you when you’re not in the room? I hope you’ll forward this to the people who matter to you – it’s a great conversation starter and a creative way to get to know each other better! Please comment if the spirit moves you!