What If They Know?

There’s an old saying: “You can run, but you can’t hide.” I’m not sure about the derivation or intended meaning of this saying, but it reminds me of the ways that we attempt to hide from others what we’re really thinking. Frankly, I think it’s impossible to hide our feelings (e.g. anger, detachment, disinterest, fear, doubt, etc.) for very long or very effectively – if at all. So what if people already know the truth of us (inside and out), and what if failing to tell the truth about ourselves is a fundamental cause of the lack and loss of trust with the people around us (e.g. team members, friends, family, etc.)?

To be even more direct, I am confident that people do knowwhat’s going on inside us. If we’re hesitant or unsure, people know it. If we’re pretending to be self-assured and confident, people know it. If we’re afraid or uncertain about the future, people know it. If we’re angry or frustrated, people know it. If we’re bored, disinterested or disengaged, people know it. Not only do they know it, but they resent and retreat from your unwillingness to be honest about what you’re feeling. You know that feeling – when you can tell that someone is feeling something about a person (perhaps you) or a situation, yet they don’t say anything about it – do you trust that person more or less? Do you support them more or less? Do you want to engage more or less?

Clearly, the false belief that we can fake it in hopes that people don’t know the inside of us is hurting our relationships, our trust levels and our leadership.

Recently, I went through a retreat experience where there were unexpected circumstances that created some chaos and uncertainty among the staff. When I asked the staff what state of mind they thought the retreat participants were in as a result, they answered that they didn’t know, but I told them that they (the staff) knew exactly where the participants were – exactly where the staff was. In other words, not only do the people around you know where you are and what you’re feeling, but they often take on those same feelings, especially when those feelings are not openly shared.

If you’re feeling stressed by change, the people around you will feel stressed. If you’re feeling doubts or fear about a situation, the people around you are likely feeling the doubts and fear. If you’re feeling disconnected from a person, cause or project, the people involved are likely to be feeling the disconnection (and are likely to disconnect themselves further) – often unconsciously. In other words, what’s going on inside you becomes and creates what’s going on outside of you unless you’re conscious of it in order to prevent it. And the best way to prevent it is to be vulnerable and to share it, since this process of people around you experiencing what’s going on inside you is usually limited to situations where what you’re feeling and experiencingis not shared and you think you’re keeping it a secret.

As I said at the beginning, you can run (i.e.attempt to bury your feelings about a person, experience or situation), but you can’t hide. It always comes out, and it often comes out in unexpected and unhealthy ways. Why? Because they know!

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