A few weeks ago I was at a conference and I ran into a colleague from many years past. He was part of a panel discussion in one of the sessions, so I said “I’m going to try and make it to your session later.” He immediately caught the word ‘try’ and called me out, asking ‘try to?’ Oddly enough, he was right, what was the trying part, either I was or I wasn’t.
I mean, really, what could prevent me from attending? I had specifically travelled to that city to attend that conference, so unless I had some sort of family issue, I was there, and I was attending. That session had been on my radar since before I registered for the conference, in fact, it was one of the reasons I wanted to attend at all. So why did I choose to use the word ‘try’ instead of ‘will’? I myself was perplexed.
What was I feeling in that moment to want to be evasive, almost coy in my attendance? Did I want him to want me to attend? Did I want to appear aloof, somehow in demand, or just to appear very selective? To give him the idea that perhaps, a better option could surface in the next 60 minutes to take my attention. Yep, not likely.
My initial goal was to show him I cared enough to attend, but again, why would he care? What difference would it make to him if I attended? Maybe I didn’t want to seem too eager? It was a brutal attempt at a compliment. I failed.
He was not the reason I wanted to attend the session, the content was, but ironically, it was him that named me publicly in this same session as a valuable industry resource. So here it was, I had been jerky and he had been helpful. Not my proudest moment. I later thanked him for the shout out, it added to my credit, and actually was mentioned to me by a potential client. That’s a big win out of my laissez faire attempt to make the session.
Now, I can confess that he and I have been friends and colleagues for over a decade. He has seen my work and I have seen his, we are like-minded on work ethic and overall, are two pretty decent people. But in this example, he was far more decent that I was.
And all of this got me to thinking about how often I say something without thinking, and it reminded me of a Rick Warren blog I read awhile ago that talked specifically about – thinking before speaking. So let’s see how I measured up:
T: Is it truthful? Is what I’m about to say the truth?
· No, it was not the truth – I was always attending.
H: Is it helpful? Or will it simply harm the other person?
· Nope, not helpful, only made him question me and then me, question myself.
I: Is it inspirational? Does it build up or does it tear down?
· Giving him the idea that I had another option was not inspirational, not that he needed my support, but we can always use a kind word. I don’t owe him anything, but I certainly could have shown him my support and even shared that I had my eye on that session for sometime. I could have been nicer.
N: Is it necessary? If it’s not necessary, why do I need to say it?
· No again, not necessary to cast doubt on my attendance. Completely irrelevant, no need to say it.
K: Is it kind?
· No, it wasn’t kind; but it was kind of crappy.
It appears I’ve hit this out of the park, no’s right across the board. How un-awesome.
I like how THINK is drilled down – and I have been trying to use it as much as I can. A goal is to distance myself more from my emotion of the moment, THINK, then respond or react. It takes practise. And if Malcolm Gladwell is right, I need 10,000 hours to become an expert in THINKing. I admit, I’m not an expert or even a novice at this point, but in my opinion, part of any great athlete or human being is a relentless desire to improve. And I am aiming to do just that. Who’s with me?