The heart and head vs. the eyes and ears



Years ago, I was  in a meeting with a new Fortune 500 client.  The meeting was chaired by the COO and the purpose of the gathering was for me to present the findings and recommendations from a study they had commissioned me to do.  There were about 15 people present, of which I was the only outsider (the unpopular and often dreaded, “expert consultant”). 

As I was presenting, the COO interrupted me with, “your body language is saying something quite different from what you are telling us.”   This stopped me cold, not to mention scared me to death.  I have never forgotten it and in fact, I later made it my business to understand this whole secret language thing.

The COO remains a client today and whenever I mention this harrowing event,  she always laughs and says she vaguely remembers the meeting but has no recollection of what she said to me.  So much for my sense of self-importance.  She does however, say that I need to remember that she subsequently hired me to do a number of large projects, so therefore (according to her), I must have done alright in the meeting.  Done alright!?  I was desperately looking for a life line. 

Two truths emerge from this.  The obvious one is that we are not in our own field of vision so we really do not know how we are being perceived by others at any given time.  We judge ourselves by what’s inside our heads or hearts, while others judge us with their eyes and ears.  So, it pays to try and understand the message you are sending with your actions, your presence, your style, your tone, and so forth.  I say “try” because truly seeing ourselves as others see us is pretty impossible. I was reminded of this brilliantly in an article in the current issue of Psychology Today.  (FYI…the article is not yet available online to the general public but will be once the next issue comes out). 

The other truth that emerges from this story is that career moments which seem like crashing oceans to us are often not even puddles to the others involved.    So, while you may feel like a giant wave is rolling over your career, others may simply see it as a ripple.  How you swim through it is what they will remember.



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