We’ve all been there. You can feel that THING growing in your nose. You feel your nose swell up. It is hot. The skin is tight, stretched and painful. When you rub your finger over it you can feel the thing, turgid, massive, disfiguring. It must be on the point of exploding! You can feel everyone looking at you. The disgust in their faces. You must look like Quasimodo at this stage….
Then you get to a mirror and……. where is it? You can’t see anything. Oh, well if you look really close it’s obvious, but just nothing like as big and disfiguring as it feels. This has been impacting on you all morning. You are full sure everyone was staring at your face. But now you know it was all in your imagination.
Some things are like that. Some physical attributes or character traits can dominate your life. You are full sure that everyone can spot them and that they are judging you for those traits. But often you are wrong. Nobody even notices the things that cause you so much angst. Those are not your real problem.
The real problems are the character traits and bad habits that you carry which are not on your radar, but are impacting on your life. There are things we do without noticing that can severely impact on how others behave around us, and the opportunities opened to us.
I have seen people eat their meals with mouth wide open and half chewed food on display for all to see, with small flecks of their meal spraying freely across the table onto everybody else, on their clothes, on their food. These are people who come from a family of open mouth eaters who are unaware of the impact it has on others. They wonder why the boss did not bring them to dinner with an important client and why Dave, the junior analyst who chews with his lips together was tapped for the best contract of the year.
Personal habits are things we need to be aware of. We need to be very aware of them in business situations. Personal hygiene and grooming. Clean and ironed clothes. Down to polished shoes.
Habits that can drive others insane. Noises such as constant tapping on tables, kicking chairs, sniffing, coughing and sneezing relentlessly. Talking loudly on the phone, talking loudly on the mobile phone while walking up and down the office.
Selfish or inconsiderate usage of common facilities. Leaving toilets in a disgraceful state. Cooking smoked fish in the office microwave. Leaving dirty dishes on your desk. Stealing (borrowing) other peoples food. Regularly asking to borrow money.
Personal traits are a big issue. You may come from a family that settles disputes by shouting at each other. You can’t bring that to the office. Nor can you ghost your boss and give colleagues the silent treatment. Aggressive or over assertive behaviours were accepted back in the 1970’s or 80’s but not any more. Passive-aggressive behaviours have endured, but do you no favours.
The big problem with all of these traits and habits is that normal polite people are reluctant to take you aside and tell you that you have a problem. They will try to ignore it, or drop vague hints that fly totally over your head. Your career stagnates, or goes into reverse, and you have no clue why.
I once attended a week long residential Executive Communications Workshop (Grid Management Training) where the week concluded with everyone being rated objectively by their peers. It was a fantastic opportunity to hold a mirror up to myself and see how I was perceived by a room of strangers.
From “An Essay on Man: Epistle II” by Alexander Pope
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man.
Plac’d on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much:
Chaos of thought and passion, all confus’d;
Still by himself abus’d, or disabus’d;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!