When I was going through my first career change from accountant to coach, my elders encouraged me to ask ten people who knew me really well to send me a description of myself in three words. The name of the game here is to help you come to know your authentic self as it is appreciated by those around you, so that you can market to those strengths.
One of my favourites at the time, from someone who had known me as a friend for at least two decades, was razor sharp and blunt. Witty, well written and spot on. Obviously my friend valued me enough to spend some time thinking about it. And most important of all was that it hit home. I recognised myself and the message contains useful feedback, i.e. perhaps, on occasion, one can be too blunt. [Surely not? Ed.]
Now, if you get asked to do this, i.e. you are the one required to describe your pal in three little words, then discretion is the better part of valour. I can’t remember if I got any that said I was bossy, controlling and a terrible gossip for instance, though all are no doubt equally true. Perhaps. At times. On very rare occasions. D’you think? No? OK, perhaps not then.
May I counsel that there is an etiquette involved in asking friends, loved ones and colleagues for this type of feedback? Do not send an email to your entire list of contacts in Outlook which is from you and addressed to you and BCC’d to the rest of the world. This has to be a question of you taking time too in order to get the response you desire. Send me a personal email, address me as Dear Judith, remind me how we know one another(!) and politely make a request for some of my time, knowing that I will invest it because I care about you. Otherwise I might just DELETE or even worse, send you three little words which tell you what you definitely do not want to year, the last one of which might be OFF.
I am just about to go and have coffee with a woman who used to be a colleague and who has become a friend and she gave me three little words to describe how she feels about me, entirely unbidden, when we last met. I cannot tell you what a brave thing this was to do, to begin a conversation – a propos of nothing at all – with “what I appreciate about you, Judith, is…” And I cannot tell you how moving it was to receive it (a little tear escaped, obviously) and how it has taken our friendship up a notch, because I respect her even more now for being the sort of person who initiates truthful conversations in which we swap what we appreciate about each other. I reciprocated, natch.
And you will know, Gentle Reader, that what we appreciate appreciates.
My friend told me that what she appreciates about me is that I am empathetic (more than anyone she has ever known, and that’s quite an accolade, isn’t it), intelligent and optimistic. Again, I know these things about myself, so I recognise myself in her feedback – as with razor sharp and blunt – and so I know it’s truthful. The three little words weren’t a surprise, her saying them was.
So here’s my challenge to you today. Who can you call up and make their day by telling them what three little words describe them? And remember what I said… discretion is the better part of valour… no need to call the Gas Board or your boss and offer life-changing and unsolicited feedback which could see you living in a cold and unlit home without a job. You have been warned; go gently with this stuff.
What’s the nicest three words anyone has ever said about you? Do share…I’d love to know you better.