Three ways to Impart Wisdom:
Any one of us can lose control of a situation or a relationship. We can let things can go sideways. Any relationship can get to a breaking point in spite of our best intentions. There are dozens of causes for relationship-fails and breaks, including: lack of (mutual) skill; overworking; neglect (of ourselves or the other); or too much time spent in chaotic environments. It is easy to loose our center point and become ungrounded. Accelerated pace and multiple stressors can push us to lose sight of our true path and highest purpose. This has happened to me, and it has probably happened to you, too. This is why I advocate for Radical Self Care, but that is another essay.
Reflecting on a recent setback, I considered words spoken by one of my truth-tellers: “You cannot be responsible for how others receive your wisdom (advice, inputs, recommendations, etc), you are only responsible for how you deliver it.” Wow, this points to just one way any of us might get off track. In trying to help, we might make things worse.
I have found, as a senior professional, that I may be making an assumption that my wisdom and experience are actually welcome, along with my observations, suggestions and ideas for improvements. The first problem here is the “assumption” part.
In the Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz, the third agreement practice is Don’t Make Assumptions. “With this one agreement you can completely transform your life.” he says. What a good practice it is, and how much work we all have to do get this assumption-making cleared away. We think we recognize the sign posts, and go off down the wrong path. Or we recognize the ‘trailer’, and jump to “I’ve seen this movie before, and I know how it will end—unless you take my advice…” We think we have seen the underbelly of the beast, know the backstory, or understand the hidden agendas—the list goes on. But truly, there are just too many invisibles that can throw us entirely off track as we process what we think we see right in front of us. So, if we want to impart wisdom or share our experience in ways that are well received, we must be starting from a place that embraces the other, the setting, the environment in its full truth, not our own truth coming out of our assumption-making.
1 Gathering some facts about all those invisibles is the obvious place to begin. This may take more time than you’d like, but be patient.
2 Next is to ask the question: What would you like from me? How best can I contribute to developing the solution or helping move us forward?”
Sometimes the relationships are such that our insight is welcome, other times you have to work to get to that place of receptivity.
3 Focus on the right framing and delivery. One of my teachers used to frequently ask me “Rhonda, what have you seen?” ..in regards to any tricky subject we were debating, ideating or solution-finding about. Notice she did not say, “What should we do?” Rather, it was about “what have you seen that works, what have you seen that hasn’t worked, what were the possible causes of failures, and how might that relate to our situation?” This is really a wise way to frame any experience you bring to a situation.
My personal take-away from this: Only after I check and double check my assumptions, adjusting to reality as much as possible, and only after confirming that my observations are welcome, then can I share in a way that I am truly heard. Presenting experience and evidence in a framework of “this is what I’ve seen (insert graphic examples) so we might consider an alternate approach here” rather than “here’s how you’re doing it wrong,” holds much more possibility for positive way finding and relationship preservation.
This is good practice for consultants working with clients for sure, but also for anyone working with others to solve everyday dilemmas.
I know that my true path and highest purpose is to be a help, not a detractor. None of us (well there are exceptions, right?) like to talk for our own benefit, but rather so that we can contribute value and make a positive difference.
As I said at the start, we fail to deliver our best intent when our energies are depleted, so I try not to speak up when I am either
- feeling too much emotion
- low on energy, or
- feeling in anyway superior…
Managing all of that is possible only through meditation (or your version of mindfulness), self-awareness and Radical Self-Care. This is my three-legged stool of personal effectiveness. Read more on that here.