Does Your History Impact Your Message? Seven Mindsets that Impact the Way You Communicate with Others

Awhile back as I was going to bed, my wife said to me, “John I don’t know if I can stay married to you much longer.” After I got over the initial shock, I asked her what was going on. She replied, “It just seems like you are always angry with us.” Many hours of talking later, we were able to surface that what she had interpreted as anger was my outward expression of frustration that I was projecting at not being able to achieve a significant business goal over a long period of time. Once I clearly understood my issue, I could take steps to understand my internal perspective and change my behavior to create more productive relationships with my family members.

Our perspectives are usually the result of our upbringing, the sum of our experience, or what we have come to believe about ourselves that others have told us. We come to define ourselves by our performance, our possessions, or what people say about us. Whatever the cause, we need to realize that our external expression is the internal interpretation of our perceived inadequacies. For example, if you were raised in an environment that was highly unpredictable, then perhaps you came to experience some degree of solace by controlling the situations in your life. So if you fear being out of control, you may attempt to control everyone and everything so that things will occur or look exactly like you think they should be.  

Whether you want to call these internal beliefs inadequacies, issues, or wounds, I refer to them as mindsets because they impact the way we interact and communicate with others. Here are seven mindsets that may impact your broadcast message or the way others might perceive you:

1.To Be Acknowledged, Not Criticized. The criticism mindset results from being overly or unduly criticized. Consequently, these people do not take constructive feedback very well. This may make it very difficult for them to improve because they have difficulty looking at themselves from the perspective of weakness and because they often have been highly criticized in the past. Ironically the criticized usually become the criticizers because that’s what was done to them.

2.To Perform, Not Under Perform. These individuals have what almost appears to be a performance obsession and they are highly competitive. They will expend enormous amounts of energy performing the tasks given to them. And anyone who does not meet their performance expectations will become the object of their ridicule, criticism, or avoidance. Most psychologists would suggest that every human being wants to know that they are capable. This mindset is based on the perception of a person’s personal or professional capability.

3. To Be Supported, Not Abandoned.This mindset is driven by the belief that people, parents, friends, peers, bosses, or divine province never shows up and supports them. In their minds they are left to fend for themselves; they have been abandoned or they believe that they will be abandoned in short order. This is indeed a lonely place to be. Ironically, these individuals may behave in ways that sabotage their relationships because of the future expectation of being abandoned. They just want to beat the inevitable to the punch.

4. To Be Worthwhile, Not Worthless. Those who see themselves as worthless often play the role of victim in their interactions with others. They see little value in their personal existence; consequently, they may engage in blaming others or belittling themselves or the situation in which they find themselves. They may seek constant validation from others to prove to themselves that they are worthwhile. Being around such individuals can be quite emotionally draining.

5. To Be Enough, Not Less Than Enough.This mindset is about scarcity. It takes many different forms. They might be concerned with not being handsome or beautiful enough, rich enough, smart enough, powerful enough, good enough, etc. These people compare or measure themselves to others, and then may end up competing with them to prove to themselves that they are enough. If they cannot compete, then they may end up complaining, criticizing, and condemning others in that order. The question for these folks is, “When is enough finally enough?” Perhaps never.

6. To Be Autonomous, Not Controlled.This mindset has an aversion to authority figures. Consequently they do not like to be told what to do or to be controlled. They may rebel simply to overcome their perception that someone is trying to control or make them do something. They may push back when others make suggestions or offer ideas simply because they believe that the other person is trying to control them. Such a mindset makes collaboration and cooperation very difficult.  

7. To Be Respected and Accepted, Not Rejected. Individuals with this particular mindset will defer or go along with others to be accepted by them; consequently they are conflict adverse. Everyone wants to be valued by others with whom they are in relationship. However, these individuals may end up becoming frustrated and resentful of others because they never stand up for themselves or give voice to what is important to them. This mindset characterizes many of the younger generation who have not developed the social skills to hold vigorous conversations about a variety of topics. After all if you never put yourself out there, you will never run the risk of being rejected. Ironically that doesn’t necessarily mean that others will respect you either.

How Do You Determine Your Unmet Need?

We all have some type of mindset that is not helpful in the achievement of what we say matters most. In many cases our behavior runs counter to or is not aligned with our objectives. As mentioned previously, our external message is the internal expression of our perceived inadequacies. Being more aware of your behavior and how it contributes to your results or the lack thereof is a great place to start. Then you might ask yourself which of these questions speaks loudest to you:

Am I afraid of being criticized? Not Performing? Being Abandoned? Being Worthless? Not Enough? Controlled? Or Rejected?

As was the case with me, I did not realize how I was coming across until someone gave me feedback. Once I had an increased awareness of my own behavior, I had the opportunity to explore that behavior in light of the mindset that was driving it. Once I was able to figure out what was going on with me, I was able to challenge my personal assumptions and discover the inaccurate or incomplete nature of my thinking, and I was able to change my behavior for the better. Taking the time to understand the nuances of how you come across will greatly improve the quality of your relationships and your interactions with others. 

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