A while ago, Kevin Kelly shared a list of “103 Bits of Advice I Wish I Had Known” filled with ideas worth reflecting on. Some are great reminders, some trigger insights, and yet others invite to think about the idea and the many ways they apply.
“A great way to understand yourself is to seriously reflect on everything you find irritating in others” is one of those that change depending on the perspective.
The idea as such is straightforward, however, its implementation is tricky. The openness and transparency towards self it requires only grows gradually. It takes time and habit to make oneself aware of one’s thoughts without judging them. Where judging usually is some sort of self-preservation.
Thinking about this idea I was reminded of a friend whom I had observed ranting about others. He shared how he was seeing them taking over and dealing with a project he had established and trained his team to handle. Listening beyond the ranting, the stories all described how much he cared for his team. He wanted them to be safe and as well cared for as he had seen him care for them. He wasn’t ranting, he was sharing how much he worried and how afraid he was that they would not be able to care for themselves within their new context. For him, it wasn’t imaginable that the new leaders could care as much as he had. Their approach seemed so foreign to him as it wasn’t his and what he believed his team to need.
As worried as he was, by focusing on the other people’s wrongdoing, as he saw it, he was avoiding sensing his anxiety and the sense of losing the control he once felt to have. Anger was more accessible to him than fear. And who knows that anger might just as well have been towards himself, secretly believing that he had failed to help them become autonomous.
Interrupting his rant and sharing that he seemed to be worried opened the door for a different conversation. What he had found irritating in others started to tell him something about himself.