There's something not quite right. Something just isn't sitting well in your gut. You can't quite place it exactly, but there is something wrong between the words and something else. Have you ever heard the adage that communication is only 7 percent verbal and 93 percent non-verbal? Well, much of it is a pernicious myth, but there is some truth in the idea of congruence between what you say and how you say it. And when we witness a lack of congruence (in our perception) it is often that 'gut' feel, that sense of unease that causes us to mistrust what we are hearing. We've all hidden something about ourselves from others. We're all tempted to "spin" to protect ourselves from some vulnerability or difficult situation. Sure, I have plenty of hidden parts, thank you. My recent intimate relationship with death has led to a great deal of mind spring-cleaning. In so doing, I've come across three common fears that cause us to hide some of our authenticity: rejection, exposure and vulnerability. Fear of being rejected Rejection makes us feel unloved, unwanted and exhausted. No-one likes to be rejected We don’t want to let people see what we’re really like because we fear disapproval. We fear rejection. The easiest way to avoid rejection is to make sure that you're not in a position to be rejected. If I don't ask you for help, I don't have to worry that you will refuse. If I do the job myself, I only have to rely on myself. Much safer. If I don't ask for your opinion, I won't have to deal with your disapproval of my thinking. And yet. In my mind, I'll still be wondering what you think about my idea, or if you think I've done that job well. Even if I don't actually know you, but catch you looking in my direction. Why do we fear the opinions of other people, even people we don't know? Because we all have a deep, burning desire to be loved. Actually, we need to be loved. The feeling of being loved, and loving, is the result of oxytocin production. It's the hormone that encourages mothers and babies to bond. It is the hormone that increases the desire to gaze lovingly at your partner. Oxytocin induces a feeling of trust. If I think that you are rejecting me, not only do I not get a dose of oxytocin, I get an extra dose of cortisol and nor-adrenaline - our favourite stress and fear chemicals. Thus I can have a fear of being rejected that causes me to think that you are rejecting me, which increase my fear of rejection. And all I wanted was to feel loved. And what matters, is what I think you think. What I think you mean by what you say or do, not necessarily what you actually say or do. So, to be on the safe side... perhaps it's better not to expose myself to your rejection... Fear of being exposed Anyone who exposes our inadequacy is in danger of experiencing our wrath. Nobody minds their strengths being revealed. We have no problem with our positive capabilities being exposed. But when it comes to our weaknesses and insecurities, we would prefer these remain behind lock and key. Anyone who exposes our inadequacy is in danger of experiencing our wrath. Even (or perhaps, especially) when it is your spouse reminding you of something you thought was safely stowed in a black box, buried deep. I've worked with many senior leaders who are desperately concerned that anyone will find out that they haven't actually got it all together. Indeed, one of the first questions I get from senior leaders is about confidentiality. It shows a strong need to be open and honest and to dare to expose themselves to someone. We all benefit from talking about our real selves. To admit that we have weaknesses. In these days of Facebook 'friends', it's difficult to keep true and trusted real friends. And if you're used to hiding things from your spouse, you have to find someone to talk to eventually. All good news for the coaching industry but less so, I think, for society. Our pride is at stake when we are exposed. In the brain the chemical principally respon
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