“I would have done better if I had more time to prepare. I've been really busy.”
My client looked at me earnestly, with a furrowed brow. I could tell he was uncomfortable. As a communications coach, I’ve heard this kind of comment many times before, so I’ve come to expect it.
It was his ego talking.
Can you relate to what he was feeling? His defensiveness was kicking in, even before he'd gotten any feedback. It happens to all of us. It's the ego doing what the ego does - shielding you from potential pain and discomfort.
Now this sounds good, until you realize that the ego often "protects" you from learning new things.
Managing the Ego
The ego presents itself as your protector. It appears as the part of you that knows your worth, helps you stand your ground, and defends your honor. In a misguided attempt to keep you safe, the ego anticiipates criticism. That way, you feel prepared for threats on the horizon.
Deflection and rejection are tricks that the ego uses to keep you out of harms way.
The voice of the ego whispers in your ear and says things like:
“It isn’t fair. If only…”
“It’s not your fault.”
“Oh and by the way, you have to be perfect."
The problem is, these thoughts interfere with personal and professional growth. When we are defensive with others or unrealistically demanding of ourselves, we can’t reflect.
We get stuck.
When I coach someone, and their response is,” Yes, but…”, I know that ego has come out to play. When the ego is out in full force, learning STOPS. I see this happen all the time.
Shifting to Curiosity
Curiosity helps to quiet the ego.
As a coach, my goal is to help people drop their defensiveness so that they can become receptive to learning new things. When people relax and simply watch themselves on tape, with an open mind, they are often surprised and pleased by what they see. They get more REALISTIC about their skills and abilities.
That’s when the SHIFT happens. It's works like a charm. As the ego quiets down, people allow themselves to be curious. I start to hear:
“I’m pretty good, and how can I get better?
“What am I missing?”
“How can I do more of what’s working?”
No more furrowed brow. Now the participant is smiling. He’s feeling excited and optimistic. He knows what he can do to connect more deeply, engage his audience, and improve his presence in the front of the room.
When you want to improve, remember that defensiveness is just your ego talking. If you knew better, you would do better. Quiet your ego by getting curious.