On Christmas Eve, I mentioned to my 13 year old daughter that I was going to try making Fettuccine Alfredo for dinner (her favorite). Imagine how I must have felt when she looked up and very causally said ‘Mom stick to your usual, don’t ruin Fettuccine Alfredo for me please”. Immediately her remarks made me more sad than mad. I did not even bother to continue the conversation.
I take great pride in being a good cook and my family and friends (and now I thought my daughter excluded) love my cooking. So her remark made me doubt my cooking skills. I wondered if she hated my cooking and how long had she been meaning to tell me that? She probably stirred more thoughts of self doubt in me than she probably ever imagined she would!
The next morning, as I was making my cup of chai and still recovering from my daughter’s remarks from the previous night, I decided to ask her why did she say what she had said about me making Fettuccine Alfredo for her. She told me that because I was obsessed with healthy cooking, she assumed that I would not add as much cheese. She added that for her the essence of Fettuccine Alfredo was the cheese! Suddenly her remarks the previous night made sense to me. She made her own assumptions based on the past data and I was so hurt by what she said that I did not bother to ask her why? I also got this opportunity to reiterate my concern to her about her eating healthy and she seemed to appreciate that concern! So overall I felt good that I spoke with her on this matter.
During this conversation, I realized how one causal remark from someone can sometimes completely shake our own faith in our capabilities. This situation can occur at our workplace too. As we interact with different people across different functions under different circumstances, it is inevitable that people may perceive us and our abilities differently and may end up alluding to /making remarks that take us by surprise.
We owe it to ourselves to seek feedback if we feel that the remark about us or what we do is not aligned with what we feel/believe/we are capable of. It is all about taking the remark in stride and turning it into an opportunity. Take a moment to process the remark. And then reach out. Use questions like, ‘hey Joe, I was wondering about your comment earlier today about my presentation this morning’. Can we talk about it for a few minutes? I would like your feedback on what could have been done better’. Remember it is all about communicating effectively and an important aspect of effective communication is feedback. Seeking feedback should be on the must do list of everyone.
And when you do get feedback, be open and be honest to yourself. Use the feedback to avoid similar situations in future. Most of all make sure you do not assume things before you have had the opportunity to figure out why someone is saying something that does not align with what you think is the fact.