When People Think Differently About Themselves
Over the years, I’ve asked leaders to tell me about a tipping point in their lives. They typically give me the same answer. The question goes something like, “Tell me about a time when someone said something to you that caused you to think differently about yourself.”
Yesterday I asked the director of West Point’s Performance Psychology Program, Dr. Nate Zinsser, the tipping-point-question.
Words are rudders. Conversations have trajectory.
Words cause us to think differently about ourselves.
Someone said something to you that sucked the life out of you. You felt devalued. Maybe, on the inside, you waved the white flag.
You’re less than you could be when you allow vampire words to suck the life out of you.
Admiration is better than complaint when it comes to transformation.
Life-givers notice our strengths. Vampires notice our weaknesses.
Dr. Zinsser told me that his High School principal said he had more drive than anyone he had ever seen. That conversation is a lifetime away, but Dr. Zinsser still smiles when he remembers it.
Conversations that give life are about your talent.
Admiration lengthens your stride.
It’s normal to notice people’s weaknesses, failures, and frailties. That’s why gossip is pervasive.
In order to energize people, you have to overcome the natural tendency to focus on things they can’t do.
The same answer:
10 years ago, I asked Bob Herbold the tipping point question. He found out he was smart. Bob grew up in a working-class family and became the COO of the largest software company in the world, Microsoft.
Someone believed in him.
Who spoke life into you?
How might you encourage people to think differently about themselves?
Dear Dan and all,
Wow good stuff thank you! I had a boss once say ‘it’s your job to tell people their weakness’ as a criticism for evaluation I had given a member of my team. I wish I had a powerful metaphor ‘vampire’ to put it in some perspective at the time. A teacher wondered to me why I was struggling academically when I was ‘crazy smart’. ME? SMART? Wings. I’m struggling to finish a long race. ‘Yeah’, my husband points out – ‘but you don’t give up – you keep going.’ ME? PERSEVERING?! Wow. Have a great weekend all
Thanks Cate. Many of us owe a debt of gratitude to those people who spoke life into us.
I can attest to the power of words from others. I am bolstered by the positive and encouraging comments…people believing in me help me believe in myself. I keep an email folder containing the encouraging emails that people have sent me along the way. It’s nice to look at some of them from time-to-time and get an occasional shot in the arm.
Thanks Justin. You remind me that it’s better to cherish encouraging words than to discount them.
For me, it wasn’t words. Rather, it was the trust and encouragement to do more and different work. My mentors early in my career didn’t say specific things, but rather responded to my inquisitive nature with opportunity to learn and do more – to do different things that what my actual position called for in the job description. So I was able to expand my view of my world of work and learned that limitations were things that I didn’t have to adhere to or accept if I was willing to seek out opportunities.
Thanks Marcie. Your experience mirrors Bob Herbold’s. He remembered how the store owner trusted him to run the cash register when he was in High School.
If you look for good you will find good and if you look for bad you will find bad. I always try to remember that line when I go into a 1:1 to make sure I say something positive and encouraging.
Thanks Pat. Simple and actionable.
Many years after our divorce, my former husband told me that he always admired the way I stood up for myself and others. We laughed about some of the times I truly was a “Karen.” Hope this brings smiles on a January Friday morning.
You comment made me smile. 🙂 Thanks
The power of belief as shown in words impacted my sense of self-confidence and esteem. As part of a team, we completed a major organizational study that restructured the department for greater effectiveness and impact. Our Executive VP knew of the study and asked me to, off the cuff, present the findings to the Board. His confidence in me inspired me and bolstered my sense of value to the organization.
Thanks Tom. I bet you were engaged after that! Wonderful story.
Others help us believe.
Thanks for this Dan; you have the most uncanny way of delivering what I need just when I need it most… Working in healthcare these days is a pressure cooker; this is a great reminder to look for the positive and provide encouragement, rather than focusing on what’s wrong. Our teams truly need this at this moment. Thanks! Happy Friday!
Thank you for serving in such a turbulent sector. Many of us know first hand that healthcare has many wonderful people in it.
Awesome post. When I was in high school, a friend of my mom wrote me a birthday card. It had a picture of a Native American on his horse, and on the inside he inscribed “to a true spirit warrior”. That was the moment I started thinking differently about myself.
Wow! You’ve been a spirit warrior ever since. And the world is better for it. Thanks for sharing that experience.
I want to be a life-giver – no one pulls someone down without also taking themselves down. Great post – thank you for sharing.
Thanks Travis. I appreciate you saying, “I want to be a life-giver.” Becoming intentional about our use of language is the first step.
My fifth grade teacher took each of us aside and had a little conference. She told me I could be a leader. They always stuck with me. Powers do have power. They gave me the courage to speak out step up and attempt many things I may not have done. That was 54 years ago.
Interesting. Both at school and in many jobs, “negative magnetism” as used as a tool for control: it was used to keep people in their place, to discourage them from seeking elsewhere because “this is the only place that will take you”.
Many, many years later, a boss in one of those organisations confided to a few of us “most of us here have no idea how good we actually are”.
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