I had a conversation yesterday I don’t think I could have had a year ago. A couple of people had concerns about the way I have been handling a situation, and I heard about it through a third party. I asked for (and got) some time to hear their concerns face to face, and I went into the conversation with a desire to hear what they had to say. I also had a desire for them to know that they were heard. If they were willing, I wanted to be heard, too. I didn’t believe I had to defend myself, but I did want to have an opportunity to be honest with them. As it turns out, the conversation was incredibly informative, and I have had a chance to think about several things as a result of my willingness to listen and their willingness to be heard.
Part of the issue for me centers on bringing my full, authentic self forward. In my effort to do this, I can sometimes lose sight of other people, or I can forget the context of certain relationships. My full, authentic self might look different in a recording studio than it would at a family reunion or in front of a classroom. It's not that I have to hide out or be dishonest about who I am, but rather that I can be more sensitive about other people's expectations and the environment in which we interact.
A piece of it rests with other people's interpretations as well. In fact, these particular concerned individuals had begun to draw conclusions from a few pieces of information out of a much broader framework. Their observations are certainly valid, but they are in some ways incomplete. I recognize that if others want to read something into my words and actions without verifying with me, I have very little control over that.
At the same time, I can be more conscious of how my words and actions reflect my deepest and noblest intentions, and I can strive to make it easy for people to see my authentic self. A part of my response to these specific concerns was to look at the larger context very closely, and what I found was that they stemmed from exceptions and not the norm. I have taken some action to address those isolated incidents, and I am moving forward with greater awareness.
Out of that connecting conversation, there arose some questions I still want to answer for myself, and I am grateful to have such blatant evidence of the rewards of being willing to listen.