Hidden Problems: When Other People Notice Our Issues Before We Do
Do you ever feel like you’re completely blind to issues in your life, that your concerns are hidden? Somehow, others seem to see them clearly. Why do certain problems seem to elude us, when we are the ones who need to deal with them? As human beings, we are designed for self-preservation and that includes protecting ourselves from harm. We instinctively make attempts to not only survive but to thrive. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we don’t wake up every day ready to invite pain and difficulty into our lives as we explore our own behavior. Let’s look at some beneficial ways we can respond when others point our flaws.
Don’t Believe Everything you Hear
I learned a lesson many years ago that you can’t believe everything you read. Likewise, we can’t believe everything people say to us either. So, when it comes to others pointing out our flaws or weaknesses, it’s important to evaluate who it is and what authority they have. For example, if a close friend points out that you seem unwillingly to take chances, they are probably basing their comments on several personal experiences. But, if a stranger says the same thing, it doesn’t hold as much water.
The Three Strikes Rule
I tend to go by the three strikes rule. This means I look for more than one instance of the same comment before considering it worth working on. I wouldn’t say I get three strikes that often, but when I do, it usually an eye opening experience. As luck would have it, I just had a three-strike moment yesterday that I want to share with you.
- I’ve been participating in an indoor cycle class for the past 6-months or so. The instructor frequently looks as me when she tells the class that we look too tense. As we push our limits in riding strength and speed, it’s hard not to tense your upper body. And each time I hear the comment, I do have to consciously relax (My first strike that I’m too tense under pressure).
- Last week I had fingerprinting done at a local UPS store. A clerk started rolling my fingers on a glass plate and then stopped suddenly. He replied, “You have to relax for this to work.” Ok, once again I found myself consciously choosing to relax (strike two).
- Then yesterday the third strike came too. I took my first trip to the spa to use a gift certificate a friend had given me for a massage and facial. Sure enough, as my masseuse was working on my upper back and shoulders, she commented, “You’re really tense.”
Time to Take Notice of Hidden Info
All right already, point taken, I need to relax more often than when people tell me to. Honestly though, I don’t go throughout the day thinking I’m stressed or tense. Even though my shoulders are practically connected to my ears, I never took notice that this was an issue. Three strangers, who would not normally have ever told me that I was over-stressed, all spoke up as part of their professional duties. It was clearly time to listen and work on this issue.
Some things can’t be hidden, even if they don’t seem obvious to us. The cycle instructor looking at my posture couldn’t miss it. The UPS clerk who needed to work with my fingers couldn’t miss it either. And certainly, I couldn’t hide from the masseuse who had to touch my neck, shoulders, and back. So while normally strangers and acquaintances wouldn’t be high up on the trust worthy list, their professional observations were highly credible.
Resist the Urge to Defend Yourself
That protective nature is going to try to keep you in the dark and ensure the issue stays hidden. At this point, we may be tempted to ignore the comment. In my example above, I could assume the cycle instructor was speaking to the rest of the class and not me. I could have been annoyed at the UPS clerk for expecting too much from me. And I could have assumed the masseuse deals mostly with rich, carefree clients so rarely sees hard workers like me.
The problem with defensive responses is that they move us further away instead of closer to the solution. The first step in finding a real solution is accepting that you have a problem. Instead of pushing the people away who are bringing up sensitive issues, I challenge you to respond with a question that allows you to learn more. Let me give you some of the responses I could have used.
- Cycle instructor – After class I could have asked her if she had any suggestions for how to keep my upper body more relaxed during the ride.
- UPS Clerk – I could have asked if he sees many people with tense fingers or if I was one of the rare ones.
- Masseuse – It may have been helpful to ask about specific muscles that seemed overly tense and then I could research it more on my own.
Well, if you thought admitting the problem was hard, solution hunting has challenges of its own. In my case, I have to start with the question, “Why am I so tense?” Here are a few possibilities but you could probably add more. I’m just beginning my hunting game, so I’m having discovered my solution/s quite yet.
- My “Type A” personality.
- My desire to please others.
- Fear of doing something wrong.
- Lack of trust of others.
- Misplaced priorities.
- Not giving myself permission to relax.
- Too much responsibility in life.
- Have you had any “three strike moments” that deserve your attention?
- How do you tend to respond when friends point out something that you need to deal with? How about when strangers to the same?
- Do you have any additional ideas of why I walk around so tense all the time? (Feel free to leave me a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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