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What do people say about you when you’re not there?
Hi! Andy Edwards here – your ‘Psycho Friend’ – but Psycho as in Psychometric.
The question in my headline seemed to spark an almost indignant response when I posted it on social media a short while ago:
“I am not bothered.”
“Stopped worrying about that many moons ago.”
“Couldn’t care less.”
“Doesn’t concern me.”
“None of my business!”
“Not me. I spent too many years worrying about what people think of me.”
“I don’t give a flying ffff…”
…and I understand why people respond in this way. Conventional wisdom would certainly suggest that we should not give a collective damn about anybody else’s opinions of us. But the answers above would indicate that many folk feel the need to almost protect themselves from such awareness… perhaps assuming the content would be negative…?
And, anyway, that wasn’t the question. I asked whether you KNOW what people say – not whether you are “worried”, “bothered” or “concerned” with the information!
My question asks whether you have sufficient self-awareness to understand what others might think or feel about your behaviour, words and attitudes…
Whether you then choose to do anything about it is another matter.
And whether you care, undoubtedly depends on many things. Consider these factors…
Is the other person a spouse? A friend? A colleague? Your boss? Your parent? Your child? A facebook ‘friend’? A facebook friend of a friend? A guy who has just cut you up on the M4?
What is the quality of your existing relationship? What is the power of their immediate or future impact (positive or negative) in your life? How easy it is to avoid them? Will you ever see them again?
Surely, the less important I am to you – the less you will care about what I say about you. Which works the other way round… if you care for me – surely you’ll care what I say about you?
Depending on the source, most people DO care what others say about them. Perhaps only CERTAIN others… But to simply state you don’t care about your personal or societal impact on any other people is actually a sign of potentially psychopathic behaviour (and only 1 – 2% of people are genuinely psychopathic)!
By the way, there is also no assumption in my question that others’ covert references about you will be negative – or that they wouldn’t ALSO say these things in your presence. Not the people who count, anyway.
Here’s another question which I believe asks the same thing:
All things being equal, what impression do you like to leave people?
When I ask this question, 100% say that they prefer to leave others with a good or positive impression wherever and whenever possible (perhaps I have yet to ask a genuine psychopath!).
“But it’s a different question…” say my social media contacts.
Is it, though? What people say about you when you’re not there is surely a product of how you make them feel – the impression they get. You can’t divorce the two elements. If others are, indeed, left with a good impression of us, then their comments about us when we’re not there will be generally positive. And it seems most would prefer that.
If you care about leaving or maintaining a good impression – you care about what such people think and feel about you. Ergo, you care about what they say about you. As previously stated – you might choose to ignore it or do nothing with it, but that’s supplementary to my point.
So, in my opinion, to apply the blanket of “Not Caring” what effect you have on other people in your life is as apathetic as it is ignorant (or, of course, psychopathic).
To me awareness of how you are perceived and understood (or misunderstood) by others is actually important feedback and an opportunity to learn. In fact it is this very mechanism that allows us to form meaningful hierarchies of friendships and relationships in our lives. It’s also the basis of Emotional Intelligence.
Daniel Goleman, author of ‘Emotional Intelligence, ’defines this trait as
- Self awareness.
- Self regulation
- Social skills
To simply not give a “ffff…” about what people think of you, flies in the face of such qualities.
So I’m “coming out” as someone who cares what you say about me.
Whatever you say about me is important to me. It helps me understand myself and you better. I welcome the opportunity to build on, repair or re-position our relationship based on my effect on you – and yours on me.
Is it so bad to concern myself with the impact I have on others? Is it wrong to want people to think well of me and say nice things in or out of my presence? People, and my relationships with them, are significant aspects of my life. As the poet John Dunne said “No man is an island”…
If someone perceives my confidence as arrogance; my assertiveness as aggression or my support as interfering, then I believe I should be sensitive to this. It won’t be what I meant… but my strengths are also my weaknesses – especially when ‘overplayed’ to people who are less like me. Such awareness helps me learn to understand myself and others ever more deeply. Especially if those ‘others’ are important to me.
So – we may choose to dismiss or ignore it – but to be aware of how people respond or react to us is, as a minimum a useful skill, and at best – essential to a relationship.
So please don’t respond to this article because I don’t want to learn, consider your opinion, understand different points of view nor give a damn about what you think. Say what you like – I don’t care. I dismiss the idea that you might disagree or have any constructive comments to make.
In fact, ffff off!
Andy (your psycho friend) Edwards
PS To find out more about who you are – and what people might refer to as your strengths AND your challenges click here and take a brief psychometric assessment www.apa.cards