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How you made them feel – growing the character of the Habits.

Think back over this past week with me for a minute. What encounters have you had with people? Think about one really positive encounter, and one really difficult one. What stands out as you remember those exchanges? It may well be that there are specific words or phrases that stick in your mind. Perhaps words of affirmation and appreciation that really meant a lot and hit the spot most needing nurtured. Or equally, harsh words that seemed to pierce straight through your defenses and stab you with criticism or judgement. But I will bet a fair bit that what stays with you the most when you consider both of those encounters are the emotions you were left with.

It was Maya Angelou who famously and insightfully observed:
How you made them feel

For me, this is at the heart of the transition between the internal Habits 1-3 and the external Habits 4-6 in Stephen Covey‘s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People that we are currently exploring.

(Habit Number 7 stands on it’s own, and you will have to wait for the New Year for that one! It is very close to my heart, for many of the reasons that I have explored in writing in this blog over the past couple of years, and in part refers back to my training and experience as a physiotherapist. So I’d love you to stay tuned…..)

Anyway.

I am aware that in summarising the Habits, and bringing my own perspective on them, I am seeking to condense the considerable thinking and wisdom in the original book. As such, there is much I will miss, and I commend the book itself to you to read as it really is a life-changing gem.

What is interesting is the emphasis on character. I mentioned this at the start of this series, that the Seven Habits book is much more a book on character and inner personal development than it is a management or systems book. As we move into the second half of the book, there is a transition piece that looks at key issues of character and the foundational importance of developing the first three habits before seeking to implement Habits 4, 5 and 6.

The latter Habits all talk about Doing. The first Habits are about Being, and being always comes before doing if we want to do what we do with any integrity and self respect.

Dr Covey himself observes –

The most important ingredient we put into any relationship is not what we say or what we do, but what we are.”

Which is another way to express Maya Angelou’s comment. Because when people remember how you made them feel, what they are picking up on is who you are, your character. And our character can change. Or, to be more accurate, we can choose proactively to grow and develop our character to be more of the person we want to be.

What does this mean in practice?

  • Taking time to understand the other person – to speak their love language not your own – and not to project on to them what we think we would want in their situation. What does it mean to really get into their skin and understand where they are coming from, and to then choose to behave towards them in terms of that understanding?
  • Linked to this, not making assumptions and taking time to clarify expectations – how often do we get ourselves into real bother with our colleague, boss, partner, family member because we each have different expectations of the situation and have not clarified them? It takes time, courage and honesty to ensure that expectations on both sides are clear and explicit. It is easier to assume that our expectations will be self-evident, but how often does this lead to confusion, misunderstanding and resentment?
  • This of course is about integrity – being true to yourself and also true to what you say. Keep commitments, especially small ones. (And especially with children; they really notice broken commitments, and quickly learn not to trust those involved – a very damaging life lesson). Be true to who you are and be consistent in what you say and do, whether to people’s faces or behind their backs. Not easy but central to good character.
  • Notice and attend to little things. It is often the accumulation of myriad little things that create the biggest impression in relationships, both for good and bad. My wise old grandfather would often say – “It doesn’t cost anything to be nice to people.” Actually, sometimes it does, but the price is worth it in terms of personal integrity and character.
  • Apologise quickly and sincerely when we get it wrong. Having the courage to say, “I got it wrong” and be specific about how we did so goes a long way to building integrity in relationships and strengthening character

How do you make people feel? Quite an inflammatory question I know, but worthy of some inner musings this week.

Inspired? Encouraged? Get in touch!

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