It has been a long time since I last shared my thoughts with you. The reason I decided to write now is because I had an encounter that made me feel uncomfortable.
I am a huge advocate of getting feedback and I am shameless in asking for it from people I trust and respect. However, when a good friend (and mentor) offered me constructive feedback a few days ago, I didn’t feel happy about it.
“Some suggestions for you to think about” she said. I was taken aback. I did not expect it so I was not emotionally ready to have this discussion. Most importantly though, the suggestions were on a subject that I consider myself an expert. Hence, I didn’t even think that I can further improve. Was it a ‘blind spot’ I was not aware of?
Needless to say I felt uncomfortable and surprised. The good thing is that I am older and wiser now (or so I want to believe!) and I quickly managed to contain the negative feelings. I asked my friend to give me some specific examples in order to understand better her perspective. Later, we moved on to other topics.
I reflected on this experience afterwards and the reasons why I didn’t feel at ease. In general, I am continuous trying to develop myself. In most cases, I am the one who identifies an area to work on and invite people to give me some constructive suggestions. In this case though, somebody else took the initiative to let me know of a behavior I was not aware of (my ‘blind spot’) and I was caught off guard.
Here are some of my thoughts that may be also useful to you.
- Be aware of your ‘blind spots’. The problem with ‘blind spots’ is that we cannot see them. Others though can but they usually don’t tell us anything about them. Why should they bother? Most people want to avoid uncomfortable discussions. So, it helps to develop a network of trusted friends/colleagues/mentors to whom we give the permission to share their observations with us about areas we need to know even if we have asked them for feedback on the specific occasion or not.
- Check for ‘blind spots’even in areas you consider yourself an expert. This is a typical missed opportunity by many. However, the key to success is by further advancing our strengths. Be open to suggestions from people you trust. Some small changes (e.g. on how you communicate your hard-earned knowledge) may have a significant positive impact in the way your are perceived and can lead to further career advancement.
- Consider yourself lucky if somebody takes the time to help you identify your ‘blind spots’. (And if it is difficult at the beginning, pretend it until you become it.). Also, remember that people who are willing to give you feedback, they usually do it because they care about you. It doesn’t mean they are always right. This is up to you to decide but they take the risk to tell you things that you won’t be happy to hear initially and you wouldn’t know otherwise.
The bottom line: We all have ‘blind spots’ and we are unaware of them. If somebody helps us to discover them, we need to be happy even if initially we feel a bit hurt.
I would like to hear from you. Have you gone through similar experiences? What were your learnings? Feel free to share your thoughts with us.
Thank you for reading,
Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply . She passionately believes in people’s development. She is a senior executive in the pharmaceutical industry and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. In her limited spare time, she provides pro-bono advice to whomever is asking for it. Her b4iapply blog is recommended by The Guardian for professional development.