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It recently came to my attention that some of my colleagues have labeled me as arrogant. I know I can be opinionated sometimes but this label hurts and I’m worried it’s going to affect my future here, especially if my manager agrees! What do I do to reverse this?
Dear Possibly Arrogant,
It recently came to my attention that some of the horses in my herd have labeled me as bossy! And guess what? About certain things, I am! I’m opinionated too. And sometimes, I believe my opinions and world view and preferences are superior to others. I suppose that could be seen as arrogant.
Here’s the thing about receiving feedback, we need to have a checks and balances system or else our personal stability and leadership will be thrown off all the time. In the horse herd, we are giving feedback all of the time, alerting each other of our personal needs, changes in our environment, the feel of our group, and the rhythm of the day. The feedback we give and the seriousness with which we receive it is how we build trust. We have learned to trust each other because of our feedback. I’ve seen in humans that they don’t give each other much feedback and they seem to be afraid of each other. Your human herds, just like our horse herds, are communities.
Here are a few questions to help you develop some checks and balances. The more you do this, the faster and more efficient you will get at it. I can do this while grazing and swatting flies with my tail!
1) Who is the source? Is the source of feedback an individual who is trustworthy and honest? If not, perhaps listening to their feedback would not be wise and in fact could be very destructive. If I listened to the feedback of an unstable horse, I would be distracted all day long, exhausted, not grazing enough, and not attending to actual needs.
2) Is it true? Is there some truth in what has been communicated? We have to be willing to look at feedback and consider it’s value. If Rosie tells me that she’s noticed something on the mountain, I’d better wake up and pay attention. It could be a mountain lion or an environmental change like a storm coming. I’ll give you an example that is more personal. Lately, Rosie has been giving me some feedback about sharing hay piles. I pin my ears and tell her to back off and find another one. I can get pretty nasty about it. But for the past few weeks, she has pinned her ears at me and moved closer! She told me that there’s plenty of hay and that I should get over it. So, I’ve been thinking about this and I realized I was being a bit rigid. She’s right. There is plenty and I can learn to be more peaceful with my herd. I’m trying….
3) How can I walk toward this? What is one thing that I could do to examine this further? We move away from things that scare us and that’s an important survival strategy. But we also need to assess and explore. The more we do this, the braver we get.
So let’s put this all together now: You’ve gotten some painful feedback. Breathe. It does hurt! You should see how much we bite and kick each other in our herd! You are not alone. This process is going to make you stronger and more resilient. First, is the source of your feedback someone who you admire and someone who works on his/herself with integrity? If the answer is no, then you might want to shift your focus to literally anything else! Second, is it possible that arrogance has been an issue for you before and that this is something you might want to look at? Perhaps you could have some conversations with people who you absolutely trust and ask them to be honest (and kind) with you about their experience of you. Sometimes those alerts about our personalities are important because they help us attend to lessons we need to learn to make us better herd members or more peaceful individuals. I’m not wild about Rosie’s recent feedback but I’m finding that less drama at the high pile is actually more relaxing for me and my friendship with Rosie is really felt when I let her muzzle and my muzzle nibble hay next to each other. Finally, walking toward conflict and reality are important capacities for brave leaders. If you imagine that there’s nothing here to be frightened of and that all of us have characteristics and traits that could use some improvement, then perhaps an honest and transparent conversation with your manager that YOU initiate will address the issue head on.
Embrace yourself as an imperfect mammal and show others that you aren’t afraid to look at yourself so you can develop into an even better individual. Be willing to look at your flaws and work toward improving them. When we do a thorough personal inventory, we can stand tall and proud. We have nothing to hide. If we know ourselves, we can trust ourselves. And that is exactly what makes us worthy of other people’s trust.