Last week on vacation, my one “ah-hah!” moment was in the hotel gym. It had mirrors all around, and I watched myself as I ran. I saw that I looked really stupid when I ran. My gait is too short, and I run with an old person shuffle. (long, dreadful sigh) I asked my sister last night if I ran stupid, and she said “yes”. She said she’s only known this for a month or so. Ok, so this is the thing – someone needs to tell me this stuff. It seems like for some reason, the “naked emperor”* is par for the course now. Everyone is afraid to tell the boss that angry 3 a.m. tweets are inappropriate or you run like Granny Clampett.
Why is this? Are we so worried that we may get yelled at that we find it easier to not say anything than suffer the wrath of person you are delivering the message to? Annette, who had the office next to me for years, used to tell me I smelled. (I ate a lot of hummus, made with a lot of garlic.) Even though I responded in abject horror … I appreciated the gesture. Remember Elaine’s dance from Seinfeld? She went through life thinking she was a great dancer when in reality, she danced like she was having a seizure. Someone should have told her.
The Standards of Behavior tell us that assertive communication is the best form of communication. Polite, professional, honest and timely communication designed to inform, not to punish or embarrass, is by far the best way to relay a message. Like “Steve, you’re always trying to improve the way you exercise, perhaps lengthening your gait would help you achieve a better run” as opposed to “you run like a grandma” or worse, saying nothing. Nobody wins in that situation.
*"The Emperor's New Clothes" (Danish: Kejserens nye Klæder) is a short tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that they don't see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as "unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent". Finally, a child cries out, "But he isn't wearing anything at all!"