I was reflecting this morning on the tricky business of building professional relationships. Recently I realized in the middle of a very long winded story in my head that I couldn't remember if I had reached back out to someone in my networking group because I hadn't heard back from them about an appointment. I felt my heart speed up a bit.
I hate making mistakes.
Later on that day someone sent me a message that they hadn't received an email I said I had sent them. "What!?", my head cried. I knew I had sent it. After further exploration it became evident that email server was not sending any emails, although they were not in the Outbox, they were somewhere else. Just not where they were supposed to be.
In this moment, I noticed a familiar voice in my head: What were people thinking of me not keeping my word? The perfectionist on my internal board of directors came to rise again. Most of her statements begin with "I should have" or "They should have". Sound familiar? I wanted to rectify the situation immediately. I was probably more embarrassed than I needed to be, because there was a logical explanation. But, that perfectionist was winning for a few minutes in the thought battle.
When we make a mistake, or things happen beyond our control, it is important to notice the shame we experience in those moments. What do you do when you realize you made a mistake? Do you cover it up? Do you fake a technology problem? Or do you laugh at yourself and deal with it directly? Do you replay conversations in your head or type a thousand word apology only to delete it when you're done?
How about when people fail to reconnect with you? What stories do you make up about why people don't call you back, or disappear? I remember perseverating over the absence from someone I cared about and did business with. Later I found out her husband had left her and she was in a tremendous fog and back to basics. Naturally. In my mind I had gone back and forth over how to reach out to her during that season. Sometimes I reached out, sometimes I wished she would emerge. When I found out the back story, I remembered this very important distinction:
It's Not About You.
"The difficult thing is that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I'm willing to show you. In you, it's courage and daring. In me, it's weakness." Brene Brown
It's not about you. Even if their lack of response is due to busyness, it's still not about you. Also, it's also not always about the technology. We find the excuses we need.
So how do you dig out of the shame and procrastination that ensues?
Keep your sense of humor.
Display confident vulnerability. Own your errors, tell people you miss them, tell them you were up at 2am wondering about what had happened. Be open and honest. And watch what happens. Some of the best relationships I have built in business came as a result of the kind of honesty and vulnerability we shared when one of us had failed. Guess what? Life happens. To everyone.
Everyone is doing the best they can at the time.
Lean in, own it, and show up. And... go again.
I would love to hear your story! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what you perseverate about at 2am. Seriously, I'm curious:)