A few weeks ago I had lunch with one of my secret mentors. If you are wondering why the word secret, let me explain. I have this handful of people who I get the privilege of spending time with about once or twice a year. They are all extremely busy individuals who in the normal course of their day would in no way find time to mentor anyone. This doesn't prevent me from utilizing the precious few hours in the year I get to meet them as more than just catching up. I get to observe and learn them when their mental guards are taking a bit of a break because they aren't aware of the mentoring role they are playing. It feels like I'm gaining more out of them this way without feeling like I'm adding to the complexity of their life by asking them to actively mentor me. Sounds a little selfish when I describe it now, but can't see the harm it does to learn from people in this way.
One of these discussions with such a mentor delivered a piece of advice I doubt would have surfaced if the person's mentorship guard was up and running. The discussion somehow got to about when to have an opinion, and when to rather let the words go unsaid. This is such a difficult thing to make sense of because humans by nature are driven by emotions. Emotions which let us react at times when it is best to do nothing and do nothing at times when it is best to react. The advice which surfaced is the following:
Rule 1: Never let anything which might make someone feel good, left unsaid. Rule 2: Never say anything which might make someone feel bad. Rule 3: When in doubt, Rule 1 is the correct answer, always.
Easier said than done, I know. I thought about this in my own context of dealing with people, and can't help but think why more people, including myself, don't live by this each day. Am I correct in thinking that there is some fear in giving people compliments and that it is perceived as a weakness for some reason? That the norm is to attempt to guide people by way of criticizing is practiced by most as a more effective solution? Surely if I think about my own behavior at times of being lambasted by another, it is natural to build a wall and shut down?
Not exactly the place and space to expect people to deliver their best. Feeling valued and delivering exceptional results go hand-in-hand. Whether it is personal or business the same applies.
Truth is, I am ultimately the one who controls the quality which I produce as well as the quality of things I expect from others.