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If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Eeyore Effect

Fear is an interesting emotion.
It’s a survival mechanism. Or so it should be.
Fear goes in opposite directions, however.
Fear saves your life and fear ruins your life.

It saves your life when it helps you respond in a protective manner.
When it helps you respond to (the threat of) danger.
Fear enables you to recognize danger and to assess:
I’ll flee from it or confront it – the fight-or-flight response.

Fear can result in safety and adaptation.
Or it can result in sabotage and stagnation.
One contributing factor is the power of perceived threat.
Candid feedback, an honest but maybe not so flattering opinion can be perceived as a threat.

As a threat to self-worth.
As a threat to your most human tendency to be liked and respected.
As a threat to your desire to seek acceptance and avoid rejection.

Another contributing factor is the amount of Eeyore in you.
As described so clearly in Benjamin Hoff’s “The Te of Piglet”, the Eeyore people in this world seem to be overloaded with fear.
They are afraid without an obvious threat.
Eeyore people are afraid to risk positive emotional expression, positive action, and positive involvement.

So we return to one such positive involvement: candor with others.
Candor in relationships - in business and beyond.
In many cultures, we’re simply not used to saying it straight.
We’re not trained to establish meaningful relationships in which you can speak your mind freely.

Sure, candor is easily misinterpreted as disrespect.
Or so we fear.
Sometimes it is, many times it’s our own unease and fear at work.
Because when done right, speaking candidly is the best illustration of your respect for that person.

Of course, I’ve been there myself.
There is usually not much pleasant about criticism, at first.
But does everything always have to be pleasant and easy?

Your desire to be liked and respected by the people around you
will likely keep you from speaking up in a group.
You will probably allow your desire to fit in and to promote harmony outweigh expressing your true thoughts and feelings.
Transparency, truthfullness and meaningful conversation are overshadowed.
You overestimate the potential negative judgment of others.
You don’t express contrary views even when it would be helpful.

My question to you: Can’t something be difficult, painful, and potentially embarrassing while at the same time being of real value?

Don’t allow your fear to be judged wrong, incompetent or unlikable rule you.

Of course, I like to be right too.
I like it when people like me, approve of me, and think I’m an expert.
But you only remain expert, you only improve, you only grow if…
… if people are willing to be candid with you.
If people are willing to say it straight.
Do you allow them to?
And are you this person to those around you?
Or will you continue to sabotage yourself and others?

The Eeyore in you might be worried about looking stupid.
It might be so much easier to just complain and nitpick.
Often behind the person’s back.
That is ugly, right?!
Very ugly.
And counterproductive too.

Don’t be another Eeyore.
Say it straight, with compassion and care, but clear as can be.

"Good morning, Pooh Bear," said Eeyore gloomily.
"If it is a good morning," he said.
"Which I doubt," said he.
"Why, what's the matter?"
"Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing.
We can't all, and some of us don't.
That's all there is to it."
"Can't all what?" said Pooh, rubbing his nose.
"Gaiety. Song-and-dance.
Here we go round the mulberry bush."

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