I read Seth Godin’s blog every day (along with Fred Wilson’s and David Kanigan’s), and while I usually pick up something useful from each of Seth’s posts, some days his words seem to be a bit more poignant..
That was the case with his post from a few days ago titled, “It doesn’t sound like you“. It’s a relatively short one, so I thought I’d reproduce it hear:
One of the nicest things a generous critic can tell you is that a particularly off-key email or comment doesn’t sound like you.
It’s generous because that’s precisely the sort of feedback we can use to improve our work.
And it’s nice because it means that not only do you sound like something, you sound like something worthy of sticking with.
What do you sound like?
Over the years I’ve heard people say things like this to me, such as “I’m surprised you feel that way”, or “That’s not like you”, or “I didn’t think you would do something like that”.
I vaguely recall being upset by such comments, thinking the person was suggesting that I wasn’t capable of acting or thinking in a certain way, or that perhaps the person making the comment didn’t know me that well.
But when I read Seth’s posts, I realized such comments really are a compliment.
The people making such comments have a perception of me; of what I believe in, of what I stand for, of how I act. When I say or do something that runs counter to that perception, the person is kind enough to let me know.
And this is not a matter of whether a person agrees or disagrees with my beliefs or actions; it’s a question of being held accountable for who I am and what I believe in.
While such a comment may be the result of someone not having an accurate perception of me, or at least not the perception I have of myself, it is good to find that out, and if necessary, work to change the way people perceive me, to be clearer in what I stand for and what I value.
If the person’s perception of me is accurate and matches my own self-perception, then such comments are helpful in letting me know when something I have done or said has betrayed my set of values and beliefs.
So to me there’s two valuable lessons here from Seth’s post.
First, be clear in letting people know what you value and where you stand on issues (but not in an obnoxious, in your face sort of way).
Second, be willing to actively seek feedback from others, and to accept such feedback graciously, and if necessary, act on the feedback.
Doing so can only help you become a better version of the person you are hoping to become.
*image courtesy the song “Suitcase” by Life in Film