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Why I Thought People Were Idiots

While I was attending a Leadership Retreat (CTI) last week, we were asked to identify what we need to let go of, in order to become a better leader. For me, it was “letting go of the idea that people are idiots”. Of course, I don’t mean you, dear reader, it’s everyone else.

One of the principles of CTI is that “people are creative, resourceful and whole”. That’s a tough one for me. What’s lacking in people shouts at me, overshadowing everything else about them. Surely this stance is not serving me, I can see that. And I can pretend. But when I pretend, the truth leaks out. Plus, I’m not a good phony. The hard work for me is how to shift my internal lens so that the good overshadows what is lacking.

A friend suggested that what we see lacking is others is what we don’t like about ourselves. I’ve heard this before, “you have to love yourself before you can love others”, blah blah. I love myself, it’s not resonating. It never resonated because of course, I don’t have those cringe-worthy qualities. For example, I have a strong reaction to helplessness. I can assure you that I have never been helpless, so I can’t dislike it, it’s not there. “Well”, she continued, “it’s not just the characteristics you don’t like. It’s the ones that you dislike so much that you suppressed them in yourself.” Ah, now we’re onto something because helplessness has been obliterated in my self.

I knew the song by heart, but I never listened to the lyrics

Let’s unpack this a bit. If I see someone acting helpless, I immediately feel that are a proverbial idiot, because I can’t access a time where I felt helpless, therefore I can’t establish any empathy as a starting point to meet them. Oh wow, I didn’t understand it until I just typed that sentence.

The idea is that establishing a wider range of emotions, and having access to those emotions, will change my “people are idiots” perspective. I am going to start by making a list of behaviors that irk me, and then getting attuned to times when I feel that way myself. Stay tuned, I’ll report back.

What have you done to help yourself see the good in others? I would truly love to hear from you in the comments!

Don’t criticize, condemn or complain

— Dale Carnegie

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