Not All Street Signs Are Blurry!

I met with my client Jesse [names changed] last week and was surprised he was wearing glasses. When I complimented him on the new look he told me that he’d never worn glasses before; however, he’s thrilled with the difference they make — he can’t believe how clear street signs are!

For years Jesse thought all signs were blurry because they were far away AND he presumed they were blurry for everyone! He lived in a fuzzy world and didn’t know it. He just thought, “That’s the way things are.”

Jesse is a smart guy who excels in his job. He’s not a dope. He just didn’t know that there’s a better way to see. And in that, he’s like so many of us! Take my other client, Richard.

In our first meeting he told me that he hates when people interrupt him. He thinks they’re rude and disrespectful. He said that many people interrupt him and he wonders if he’s doing something to encourage them in that behavior.

The following week I sat in on a meeting with Richard and four other executives, as they wanted to explore training possibilities for various teams in the company. During the meeting, one of the executives interrupted Richard and he immediately shut down. Everything about him changed — his face, his posture, his overall “vibe.” He actually glared at the guy.

Richard later told me that when growing up, his parents insisted that he and his siblings not interrupt when adults spoke – and they didn’t allow for freewheeling discussion. The family motto was: don’t interrupt people — it’s rude.

But is a person automatically rude if she or he interrupts? I don’t think so. What about the person who comes from a large family where everyone had to compete to be heard and interrupting was accepted?

Here’s the thing – every family lives life guided by a motto. Sometimes it is spoken aloud; other times it is implicitly understood. But no matter, this mantra guides a family as it navigates through life.

Family mottos take on their own life. They influence how we see and interpret people and situations. They become the air we breathe. When I was growing up, my family’s mantra was: trust no one. My father was a cop. His job demanded that he be leery of all. I breathed in that mantra without thought or doubt. Later in life I had to work hard to overcome its limitations and to trust people.

Without understanding your family’s assumptions about how life is lived, you will be setting yourself up in subtle ways for stress and misunderstanding.

Give yourself an “eye exam” and identify your family’s motto. Does it help or hinder you?

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