Why It’s Normal To Want To Know What People Think Of You

Just because they don’t know you well enough to criticize you — or at least express their opinion against your ideas of how you ought to behave — doesn’t mean they are not thinking of you.

A decade ago, I was at a dinner party with my longtime friend, a lawyer whom I hadn’t seen for nearly a decade. As I was seated next to her, my husband walked over. It turned out that his wife was on her way to a meeting in her field, and that I’d have to drop everything I was doing and fly up on a work project to join her at the airport. I had no choice but to attend and leave the meeting.

My friend, whose career was flourishing at the time, had the opportunity to learn from my experience and to understand my own needs, interests and desires more than anyone else at that event — and she was eager to do so. As an example of such a woman, my friend reminded me that in the long run, I could always do more to gain her acceptance.

In light of such insights and experiences, I am glad to be back in the business of talking to people about what motivates them; what they feel when they look at me, what inspires their conversations; as I’ve discovered, it’s just about finding the right words at the right time to help the people you want in your life hear.

How to Write To Be Receptive, Not Assertive

It’s no secret that the words I have used to try to connect with clients and colleagues in recent months have been less than creative. In fact, some of them, including this month, have been downright inappropriate — and I’ve made serious mistakes in responding. 

While I have the capacity to speak about what motivates my clients in my own words, I have no right to impose a certain pattern on clients or co-workers in response, and I no longer feel I have that right. I’ve had a lot to think about in the past several months, including several conversations with other people and this blog post, but the conclusion is still the same: if I want people to want to be connected with me, I need to learn to do better in communicating myself. 

I’ve been using the word “inappropriate” here somewhat indiscriminately to describe these kinds of words for two reasons:

First, I am not suggesting that all my interactions with people who disagree with me have been inappropriate, or even negative — although sometimes they certainly have been — just that there has been a pattern over time in my writing my communications that seems to me to be rather offensive and which I no longer find acceptable. Even if these interactions are not always “negative,” I do feel that there are too many times where I’ve expressed something that others find unprofessional and not respectful and that has a disproportionate impact on their feelings. 

What’s clear is that the first three paragraphs of this article are the exact opposite of that kind of communication. At least some of it is not helpful, and I don’t feel that we can continue to do that.

Second, in a few instances in which I had hoped to find an appropriate way to express my dissatisfaction with certain behaviors or attitudes, the words fell flat. For example, here I express some concerns about a group I serve in which the members make jokes about sexual assault and violence, but as a result of making the observations and being the source of criticism, I have received nothing but positive feedback. I wonder if anyone would think that it’s appropriate to put their body in another and call them out on it? Or that being the recipient of that criticism makes them immune from having those issues, or that no one else has any reason to respond in that way in the first place?

The result of my response, which I would like to try to put more color on in another column, was that some people were offended, which is not a good look. I realize that it’s easy to just blame the “culture problem” for my lack of effectiveness. For example, perhaps I was doing it wrong or maybe I just didn’t know better. But if I have a culture that is not friendly to women or a culture that treats men like animals — whatever. I am still trying to figure out how I can change people’s behavior toward me, and I haven’t been able to come to a satisfactory conclusion.