As promised, here’s the second half of my take on compassion trumping confidence, in response to an article by Travis Bradberry that appeared on Entrepreneur.com. If you need to refresh your memory, here is the link to the original article. Today I’ll be reviewing my How To’s for numbers 6 through 10 of Travis’ list.
10 Things Confident People Don’t Do (and how to change your ways if you do any of them) – Part Two
Travis’ #6: They don’t put things off.
Christine’s How To: I agree wholeheartedly here with Travis in that procrastination is often the result of people being of afraid of either failure or success…or both! However, I do have a problem with the – once again – blanket statement that confident people don’t put things off. He states this is “because they believe in themselves and expect that their actions will lead them closer to their goals” and infers that the direct opposite to this belief and behavior is sitting around and “waiting for the right time or the perfect circumstances.” He concludes by stating that “[Confident people] know that today is the only time that matters.”
I believe I can state with a fairly high degree of certainty that not every confident person is so enlightened as to think only today matters. After all, confident people often invest in their future, which means they are thinking about the future. If they lived only in today, they would quite literally not even put money into savings because it would never occur to them that they wouldn’t have money in every now moment from here until their death. So of course I will always take issue with such blanket statements.
However, injecting compassion into the whole things makes me say that if people are putting things off, and we already know it’s often because of fear, then we need to help people understand where that fear comes from and what to do about it rather than just telling them they’re never going to be confident if they’re afraid. I am highly confident in my ability to write. You think I don’t have a wee bit of fear niggling at me every time I publish a blog post? Now, it doesn’t make me not publish the post, nor do I tend to procrastinate, but confident people can be afraid of any number of things from heights to dogs to what the future of their country’s going to look like.
What I would like to do is state to those of you who do put things off, the following: identifying what you’re putting off and why is key to overcoming whatever it is that’s keeping you from proceeding. If you’re willing to do the work, e.g. be honest with yourself and truly delve into what’s making you not do ‘the thing,’ then you can overcome that fear or even laziness, if that’s what’s holding you back. As Robin Sharma says, “The fears we don’t face become our limits.” So fear’s a good thing…so long as you own up to it, face it and defeat it.
Travis’ #7: They don’t pass judgment.
Christine’s How To: I must confess that this is the absolute worst thing I have had to work so very hard to overcome. Judging others is something nearly every single human does every single moment of every single day. Whether it’s as simple and seemingly harmless as wondering why that mother let her ten-year old kid wear shorts when it’s only 65 degrees out, or looking at an obese person and assuming they eat too many cupcakes, we are all guilty of judging others, no exceptions (well, except maybe for the Dalai Lama).
Therefore I do not agree that confident people don’t judge others. The thing about people who are thoroughly confident in themselves is that many times this leads them to having low confidence in others. Yes, an emotionally healthy person recognizes that everyone contributes something, whether it’s lessons we need to learn in life based on their seemingly negative impact or traits, or whether it’s just a different way of thinking to our own. But whether you are or are not confident is irrelevant to the issue of learning how not to judge others. One of my roomies often says, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” in response to someone judging someone else.
My own personal favorite to remind myself often is, “Be kind to everyone. You have no idea what’s truly going on in their lives.” And that fundamental truth is at the core of everything here. Just because you’re confident doesn’t mean you don’t pass judgment. The most confident person in the world is likely to question the intelligence of the guy who just cut him off on the freeway. For all you know, that driver just found out his entire family was killed in a house fire and he’s on his way to the hospital in complete and total shock.
Or the woman with the five screaming kids in the supermarket who’s trying to find her food stamps to pay for the milk and bread that’ll assuage the children’s’ completely empty bellies (which is why they’re screaming). Maybe she’s on food stamps because her husband died of a an aneurism last month leaving her with no money, no house and nowhere to put those kids while she tries to work or take some kind of training.
My How To for anyone who finds themselves passing judgment on others – even if it seems innocent such as questioning the sanity of someone who’s eating octopus for dinner – is to always, always stop yourself in your tracks the moment the thought hits you. Remind yourself that you honestly do not have any clue what’s going on with the other person (or people). Let’s face facts: even if you know someone really, really well, that doesn’t mean you know what’s going on in their hearts or minds. Be compassionate and realize that whatever’s happening with that person, it could have been you. Bless the fact that it’s not, feel for the person, help if you have the wherewithal and move on.
Travis’ #8: They don’t avoid conflict.
Christine’s How To: Once again, I’m afraid I have to disagree with Travis’ assessment that “confident people don’t see conflict as something to be avoided at all costs.” He feels that confident people know and accept that conflict is part of life, and aren’t afraid to not go along with others for the sake of getting along with others. It may very well be that the most ideal, Utopian version of a confident person doesn’t mind dealing with conflict, but it has been my life experience that if someone likes conflict, there’s often something wrong with their psyche.
I agree with what Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW talked about three years ago in her article ‘Some People Love Conflict and Drama’ with respect to this issue. <insert link http://blogs.psychcentral.com/psychology-women/2014/08/some-people-love-conflict-and-drama/>
<WP QUOTE>I do think that some people enjoy the drama of conflict. They get off on it. They like the adrenaline, the cortisol, the rage, and the energy that it brings. Even the indignity of the perceived slights must fill some type of need.<WP QUOTE>
No, Travis isn’t saying that confident people actually like conflict, but anyone who values peace and who feels compassion for others and who allows the viewpoints of others to see the light of day doesn’t just say, hey, conflict’s fine, I’ll deal with it because I’ll get good stuff if I do. That is a rather selfish viewpoint and quite frankly not an attitude I’m interested in supporting no matter how confident the person may be.
Rather than going along with the conflict, what about trying to make it so there isn’t any? What’s wrong with not wanting to involve yourself in other peoples’ drama? What’s wrong with not wanting to create conflict of your own, or escalate an evolving drama just because you might gain from it? Nothing. Just because you can deal with the conflict doesn’t mean you should. The art form lies in knowing when to and when not to.
Here’s an example for you: Two best friends I’ll call Lois and Clark (lol – anyone else remember that TV show??) got into a raised-voice altercation. Lois had asked Clark to clean up a mess he’d made outside the front door, and Clark got mad because to him, her asking him to clean it up meant she was assuming he wasn’t going to do it. Their loud words quickly turned into a full-blown argument. I could see both sides of the equation, the further they got into it, each explaining their positions. But neither person wanted to hear what the other was saying, so convinced was each in their own “rightness.”
I detest conflict. It makes me extremely uncomfortable because growing up, my stepmother basically did nothing but create conflict or happily participate in it wherever she went…home included. So for me, people yelling at each other equals unnecessary unhappiness. Arguing, in my admittedly simple view, is nothing more than two people refusing to listen to each other because they’re each completely convinced they’re right. Hence, argument. I do not for one second believe that every relationship must have arguments or they’re not healthy (yes, someone I know believes that).
I believe people can disagree on various things. If we were all the same, it’d be a dull Earth indeed, so of course we’re not always going to have the same opinions or likes or viewpoints. But just because two people don’t agree doesn’t mean there needs to be conflict. I am much more interested in peacefully bringing both parties to a mutual understanding than I am in using the conflict to my advantage by jumping in with both feet and either starting it or participating in it.
The way I look at it is this: If Lois was worried about stepping on the iron filings Clark had left out in front of the door because she has sensitive feet, and Clark thought Lois was berating him for ‘never cleaning up after himself’ and neither was willing to listen to the other, it’s pretty clear they just wanted to argue, not actually listen and understand each other.
As an aside, I stayed out of that argument even though one party tried pulling me in to take their side.
The long and short of all that for Travis’ eighth point is that I don’t believe avoiding conflict is a problem, therefore I don’t see any need for a How To for not avoiding it!
Travis’ #9: They don’t let a lack of resources get in their way.
Christine’s How To: Obviously this was written in a business context – after all, it’s posted on Entrepreneur.com. So Travis’ point is that people who don’t have the right title, staff or money to “make things happen” either find a way to get it or get by without it. This puzzles me, quite frankly, because unless you’re the owner/founder/CEO you can’t just willy-nilly go and do what you please in the business world.
I take the point that confident people are confident enough to, as Nike puts it, “Just do it!” But if you have a misbehaving Vice President and you’re about four layers down from the guy, you can’t just walk into his office and start telling him off. Well, you could as long as you didn’t mind getting fired. You also can’t pull technical staff out of thin air. If your IT Network team only has two people on it and they’re already completely overburdened with both project and operational work, what are you going to do, suddenly invent cloning and carry out the procedure on the two poor dudes?
And we all know that money doesn’t grow on trees. If your project owner tells you there isn’t any budget to buy a server rack, four servers and all the associated cabling, then guess what? You’re not buying it and the project will go nowhere if those are required for the software you were meant to install.
My point is that all the confidence in the world means nothing unless you’re in charge. So yes, given that this is directed at entrepreneurs, it is a distinct possibility that the audience of this article has a little more leeway in getting what they need or getting by without it. But we all still have to operate within the realm of what is. If your store space’s rent is due, your landlord will only let you go so long without paying it. You can be inventive, innovative and downright clever, but to say that anyone who doesn’t pull off the seemingly impossible is not a confident person makes absolutely zero sense to me. That’s like saying anyone who doesn’t run a 10k race is a lazy couch potato.
What I’d recommend to anyone who sits back and says they can’t do something because of xyz reason is this: take a good, hard look at whether you have simply been conditioned to give up easily, or if there truly is no way to get whatever xyz is without hurting yourself or other people. Making your staff work 80-hour weeks to get a project done when you don’t have enough staff to do it is not the way to do things, people. Confident or not, that kind of behavior just makes you an asshole who cares more about the end game than about the people who work for you.
Travis’ #10: They don’t get too comfortable.
Christine’s How To: Refreshingly, I actually agree with Travis on this one. It’s true that if we as human beings get too comfortable with our station in life, there’s no impetus to achieve anything else.
I once knew a woman I’ll call Maggie, who had three children by three different fathers. Two of the children were mentally disabled and she received money from the state for them. In addition, she was also disabled and so received money for that. Every month like clockwork the money came. But instead of using it to buy food for the kids, or even to pay rent, she went out to the local casino and gambled it away. However, she was never turned out on the street, and neither she nor her children ever went without food and clothes because of the kids’ grandparents, who always stepped in and paid for everything when Maggie flushed her check down the slot machine drain.
One day when we were talking about her woes, Maggie complained about feeling stupid. She told me she’d never graduated from high school due to having gotten pregnant at 15. When I asked her why she’d not gone back to get her GED she shrugged and said it was too much work. I very bluntly then said, “So you’d rather just sit around here and collect this tiny little check.” She nodded, grinned and said, “Well, yeah, it’s what I know.”
Maggie is a poster child for someone who theoretically could have tried to move ahead. Could’ve gone after a GED and maybe even taken some other courses to improve her education. It’s possible she might’ve gotten herself a job. She could also have gotten into a gambling rehabilitation program (there was a free one locally she could’ve called up) to try to stop her gambling addiction. There were a lot of things Maggie could have done, but because her folks always stepped in to ensure there weren’t any negative consequences to her or her kids because of her inaction, Maggie had absolutely no reason to want to change things, let alone try. And she was very well aware of this because we had several conversations about it over the course of a couple of years.
So yes, I do think that if humans get comfy where they are, it spells death to continued personal (or professional) growth. However, once again, I do not believe that the difference between people who allow themselves to stay comfy and those who don’t is simply confidence (or lack thereof). There are an awful lot of factors at play into why a person does what they do (or doesn’t do what they could). Maggie had grown up in a world far different from the one I grew up in. She called herself the Wrong Side because she, as we’ve so often heard, grew up “on the wrong side of the tracks.” She knew only that girls had babies young and went on welfare and watched game shows and soap operas and gambled because it was what she saw in most of her friends and family (though not all). By contrast, I grew up in a world where it was assumed that kids would graduate high school with top grades and go to a four-year college (and longer if they were going to be doctors or lawyers or the like). In Maggie’s world, college wasn’t even on the radar, let alone a possibility.
But Maggie was one confident woman, I’ll tell you that. Confident and complacent. So what’s my How To for not getting too comfortable? This one’s easy: ask yourself what’s really important to you. Money? Career? The success of your business? The health and happiness of your children? Your spouse? Your cat? Your own spiritual or personal growth? You need to decide what is important to you and then choose whatever path leads to ensuring it happens. Do not let anyone else tell you that you’re “getting too comfortable” or that you’re not doing something you “should” be doing. Only you can make that choice, my friend, for yourself.
Just be prepared for the outcome, bad or good. Maggie died a couple years ago of a heart attack. Her children went into the foster care system because her parents were too old to take them in. One of them became a criminal and is now in jail, one of them is now a homeless adult who barely makes it through bitter winters on the streets and the third child – the only girl – followed in her mother’s footsteps. At fifteen she became pregnant and dropped out of school to have the baby. Maggie made her choices and from what she conveyed to me, she was okay with it all leading nowhere.
So now it’s your turn. What will your choice be? Whatever it is, it has nothing to do with whether or not you’re confident. It has to do with what you want out of life and if you are prepared to a) do what you need to do to achieve it, and b) deal with the consequences of the choices you make.
Studying the top 10% of Fortune 500 executives and basing how everyone should be on those folks doesn’t help the rest of us “down here” in our day-to-day lives. I believe only compassion can do that. What I don’t believe is that confidently running roughshod over people to get want you want, and justifying it as making you better than people who aren’t confident, is OK. That, my friends, is judgmental, self-centered and “extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents.” In other words: narcissistic.
Peace and aloha from Hawaii,
P.S. – If you’d like to learn more about how I think, how I do things and how I defeat Overwhelm one triumph at a time, feel free to sign up for my emails below. I’d love to welcome you into my ‘ohana!