My first encounter with a blind spot coincidentally happened while riding in a car. I was T-boned, from inside the car.
It was around 1995 and my husband at the time, Tony, and I were arguing. Tony was driving. We were traveling west on I-10 (the Katy Freeway) in Houston just outside The Loop in his gold Tahoe (aka the Meritmobile, so tagged for the brand of cigs he smoked). I don’t recall what the argument was about, but I do recall, precisely, what he said. “You think you’re hot shit and everybody likes you. Well they don’t.”
Yes, we were arguing, and yes, he lobbed that grenade at me out of anger and frustration. But the sad thing is that Tony’s an honest guy. Had he said, “You’re such a bitch” or something of that genre, I would have lobbed that grenade right back with something similar but headier. Instead, I was shut down. While his barb stung like hell, it caused me to pause and consider if there could be any truth to it.
At the time, I did think I was hot shit. I was a successful career woman, not bad looking, with a nice house, nice car – all the trappings of success. But in hindsight, my over-the-top drive to succeed was, well, let’s just say, off putting to some.
My thinking that everyone admired me and wanted to hang with me was a blind spot for me.
In Do You Know Your Emotional Blind Spots? author Martha Beck says, “Most of us have such psychological ‘blind spots’, aspects of our personalities that are obvious to everyone but ourselves.” That’s hard for some of us to take.
I didn’t coin the term ‘blind spots’ but I did coin the ‘3 F’s’. I am in marketing, you know. They stand for frank, friendly feedback. And it takes two working components – the giver, who has to be genuinely coming from a loving place, and the receiver, who has to pull their head out of their whatever enough to realize it’s good feedback. He or she has to be appreciative that the giver thought enough of them to take the time to offer it up.
In her post Psychological blind spots blogger Juli says, “Whether we do it on our own or with the help of others, uncovering blind spots can be a delicate process. An accepting and understanding attitude is likely to make it less painful and more effective.”
I am more accepting of frank feedback now than I was that day in the Meritmobile.
Over drinks recently, my long-time friend and former co-worker Stacey told me, out of the blue, “Oh, I used to be scared of you. We all were.” Huh. OK I was a bit of a hard ass at work, but my motto was that I led by example and never asked anyone to do what I didn’t do myself. I worked after hours, on weekends and most of my maternity leave. Ladies, don’t do that. So thanks, Stacey, that’s valuable feedback, but it’s about 15 years overdue.
The real value comes when we get the feedback in real time. I recently participated in a writing workshop at Inprint here in Houston. It was my first writing workshop. I was nervous and wanted to make a good impression on the instructor and the group. After the ten weeks were up and our group of twelve was celebrating over beers at a neighborhood bar, one of the women in the group came up to me and said, “Karen, I want to say that when I first met you, in our first class, I, well, I didn’t think I was going to click with you. But I want to say that after having gotten to know you, I really like you.” That’s frank, friendly feedback, and it’s consistent with what others have said to me.
A coworker recently said almost the same thing. “Karen, when I first heard we would be working together, I didn’t think I would enjoy the experience, but I was wrong. After working with you over the past few months, I have really enjoyed it!” Again, frank, friendly feedback.
These people didn’t have to say anything, but they were both kind and considerate enough to do so, and I appreciate it. And quite frankly, I’ll give myself a little credit. If I weren’t open and approachable enough to receive their feedback, they wouldn’t have risked offering it.
So I am now trend spotting. Trying to stay open to feedback to detect my blind spots, which are like sign posts on my journey. Then it’s up to me to decide what to do about them.
What are your blind spots?