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What do you want them to say about you?

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!

Much love,


  1. David says:

    This is a very interesting question. I’ve thought about this and my answer would be, It really doesn’t matter what words others would describe me as. Now, I’m not saying this in a mean or “stuck up” way, but it really does not matter. I know who the “real” me is. And those close to my heart know the truth as well. I was that someone who has been in the shadows for many, many years “wadding” up emotions that just wouldn’t come out from years of frustration by being controlled by others. When I started that journey to take back “me”, some were not enthused as others; especially those that had this “control”. With that, a divorce occurred, I know I was bashed (without telling them their part of the demise), but I just let time (which is still going on) run its course. Yes, life is getting as normal as they can be, but I’ve learned so many lessons from this. 1) I’ve got to know the “real” me again. 2) It doesn’t matter what others think, I know who I am and I like me. 3) I know I am a WIP (work in progress). 4) I know my faults and mistakes (too many to list). 5) I know my gifts. I know “me” more than I have ever known before. I’m sure I am and have been described in many ways from others, but that doesn’t matter to me. I’m humble and kind; which is a great song from Tim McGraw by the way, thankful, passionate, compassionate, helpful to name a few. Whether others see me as that or not, I’m me and that’s all what matters. Peace.

    • Robyn says:

      I love the train of thought this triggered!! I think what you said: “I know “me” more than I have ever known before” pretty much says it all! So happy that you’ve decided to come home to yourself! (If I’m not putting words in your mouth.)

  2. Kathy Fitzgerald says:

    Robyn, I consider one of my greatest gifts to be not caring what anyone says about me whether I’m out of the room or in it. What people say about others reflects more about themselves, don’t you think?
    I don’t have to worry about the chat at the memorial service either. I’ll be off to my next comedic performance as a cadaver at Duke Medical School.
    Who says you’re not fun? I think you’re a hoot.

    • Robyn says:

      Yep, I’m actually with you on that one. Information about them. At the same time, I’m aware there’s a part of me that still likes to hear nice things. So shoot me lol! xoxo

  3. Lynn says:

    Robyn, thank you for this thought provoking Seedlings post! Plan to share it with my staff and friends. Cheers to you!

    • Robyn says:

      Thanks so much for passing your intention on to me, Lynn. That’s always my hope – that someone will find the thoughts interesting enough to act on and/or pass along to others.

  4. Julie says:

    Robyn, this is a great question, which I’ve let simmer for a couple days and I expect to continue revising over time. The real point of the “when you’re not in the room” concept seems aimed at identifying the qualities we most aspire to share with others, regardless of whether our egos get stroked. (Although I’ll agree with you, that’s enjoyable every now and then!)

    Anyway, here are mine:

    Open hearted — warm, compassionate and genuinely caring about other souls.

    Genuine/authentic — I’m working hard to study myself, see with clarity and share the “real” me.

    Interesting — smart, funny, stimulating, intriguing, fascinating, etc. Like your ‘edgy’, this is about having great interactions with others, and is admittedly more ego-driven than my first two aspirations.

    Thanks for sparking these (and so many other) thoughts!

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