I recently met with a client who is struggling to understand how to repair the damaged relationships between himself and his teachers. He is a 9th grader and is failing several classes simply because he decided that “he didn’t like them” (those teachers whose classes he is failing). His negative opinions are actually a reaction to his failed performance (triggered by round one of failed exams early in the school year) and not a true reflection about his judgement of his teachers character… more later on teens and defense mechanisms.
His way of showing them his upset was to not complete and turn in assignments and his grade plummeted. His teachers noticed his negative behavior but they didn’t understand why it was occurring. Things have been left unresolved since.
This smart and fully capable young man has created a myth about himself. His behavior has informed the adult stakeholders (in his educational life) that he is lazy, disinterested, and unconcerned. He’s actually highly concerned and embarrassed about his failure. He appears to have given up on himself…
Today, my double shot is about disproving the myth. Sometimes the change process has to start with disproving what we have previously offered up. We have to take responsibility for our influence on the relationships we have with others. In order to create change we have to train people to see us differently than they currently do… especially if we were the ones to drive their perceptions towards those negative conclusions.
How can we do this? Here are some tricks of the trade:
- Aknowledge past behaviors. We have to acknowledge and claim our past shortcomings to highlight what needs to be different. Even if we only admit such things to ourselves, we have to first be aware of how our influence drives our outcomes. Knowing where we go wrong is as powerful as knowing where we go right. Additionally we also have to claim responsibility for our power in present and future situations. In coaching one thing I always emphasize is that we are the center of our universes. Nothing happens without us and we are the most influential actors in our lives. How we showed up in the past and how we show up presently directly effect our future opportunities. Taking responsibility is all about harnessing the power of our own influence.
- Be the change. Mahatma Ghandi said we have to be the change we want to see in the world. When we work to change someone’s perception of us we have to behave in ways that force others to reframe their perception… of us. If we want to be viewed as responsible we have to act responsibly. If we want to be perceived as trustworthy we must follow through on our commitments. The way others see us is entirely dependent on how we present ourselves. Bad students train teachers into thinking that they are bad… much like good students train teachers into thinking that they are good. Teachers, no matter what personalty quarks they have, are in the business of developing people. If you are a student and think you have a shitty teacher, fine. But I caution you to allow your teachers to think that you are a shitty student.
- Claim difference. When we share our change efforts with our stakeholders we begin a process framed clearly by new intentions. In doing so we allow ourselves to be held accountable and to be supported. Deciding in our own minds to be different is one thing… the real impact comes from speaking out to others and claiming what it is you want to be different. Claiming difference brings clarity to ourselves and helps those around us to provide targeted support towards our newly identified ambitions.
Peace and love,
Teo Weiner is America’s teacher and can be hired for private and organizational coaching. www.doubleshotcoaching.com