Updated: Feb 3, 2021
Though I am still on my journey to becoming the beacon of communication and collaboration I want to be, I can offer a few quick things to consider based on my experiences. Take them for what they are- merely my thoughts. Like I've said before, I'm no doctor and I'm no expert. I'm just a woman who pays attention, even when it's hard.
I recommend you check out the original article these thoughts generated from here.
What do you do when you're continuously being given feedback about yourself that you either can't see or don't agree with?
Consider the source/s. Are you hearing this from a variety of people, or one specific group? Neither is better or worse than the other, but knowing your demographic will help you get closer to figuring out the solution.
At the height of my tone of voice issue, I was hearing from literally everyone that I was speaking inappropriately. I got the same feedback from a variety of people- friends, family, the counter-person at Wendy's. It was clear that I had an issue.
Conversely, there was a period in my life in which I was only being given this feedback by a specific demographic of people. It was easy for me to push this off as a type of person just not liking me. It was much harder for me to admit that I was the common element and that I really had to look at how I was speaking.
BUT- there is always the possibility that you're getting feedback from people who are projecting or are jealous or want to harm you in some way. This is more unlikely than many of us would like to admit, so take the time to really delve into it and see if this is the case or if maybe you have some work to do.
2. Make lists. Take some time to think about times in your life you have noticed this
characteristic in yourself. Don't use this as a time to judge or blame yourself. It's just a list.
It might seem impossible to make a list of times in your life when you have behaved in a way you are consciously refusing to admit is a part of you, but here's the truth- every single thing that has ever happened has also happened to you in some way. This is what makes empathy possible. You may not agree with what is being said, but I bet if you try, you might be able to come up with times in which other people have said the same thing or times in which you feared people were thinking something similar.
Taking this journey into your past self isn't the easiest task, but it can help you find commonalities that will eventually lead you to growth.
If you're completely at a loss and can't find this in yourself at all, great. Switch your list to times you've seen this characteristic in other people. For many of us, it's easy to notice flaws in ourselves (that's me). For some of us, we look for flaws in others, sometimes as a way to deflect, run away, or self-preserve. Approach this list from a place of love if it's the list you make. You aren't fueling a fire of hatred. You are trying to cultivate understanding and compassion. If you can achieve that for someone else, it might be easier to then do it for yourself. Once you complete this list, go back and try to create one for yourself. You might find it's a lot easier.
3. Make two more lists. Yes, I like lists. In these lists, write down in one column what your life would look like if you accepted the feedback you were receiving and actively made a decision to change it. In other other column, write down what your life would look like if you listened to the feedback and decided to ignore it.
At this point in the process, you still don't need to decide if the feedback is credible or valid (though I'm guessing you know deep inside). You just need to allow your imagination to take over. If this feedback is accurate and you work to change it, what could happen? List the positives and the negatives. Be outrageous in your thoughts, but be realistic.
For example, if I accept that I have a tone of voice problem and work to change it, I might: get more clients; improve my relationship with my family; feel better about myself. I also might: judge myself every moment; start to get in my head too much. By writing down all the possibilities, you start to take control of the situation.
What if I ignore the feedback that I have a tone of voice problem? I might: lose friends; lose my job; alienate co-workers; end up a lonely old woman who is eventually eaten by cats. I said to be outrageous and I meant it. You need to confront yourself with everything you've got. It's the only way through.
4. Ask people to give you their opinions on the matter. This is hard, but can be illuminating.
If you're not sure about what you're hearing, I recommend asking people. Start by asking the people who love you unconditionally. It may not be easy for them to give you the tough-love you're seeking, but you need to try to get it out of them. Tell them how much it matters to you, and they are likely to be able to take the rose-colored glasses of love off for a couple of minutes to help you through your conundrum.
After that, move onto people you've worked with. Then people you've competed against. I would say you should ask an enemy, but I'm hoping you don't prescribe to the theory that you should keep your enemies close. No one needs that kind of negativity in their life.
So now that you've delved into the feedback and made your lists- what's next?
Sit with it. Breathe. Meditate. Be kind to yourself. You can't change your behavior overnight and no one is expecting you to. You are slowly starting to open your eyes to something you either were suspicious of or had been completely blind to. It takes time for the morning crud and bleary vision of sleep to work its way out of your system. Just keep breathing. You now have more information. Information is power. You've got this.