By Susan MacKenty Brady
I was volunteering at the box office of a community theater production that my kids were in this weekend, when an older woman approached the counter. She was tiny—about the same height as my second-grader—maybe 4 feet, 8 inches, tops. I was sitting down—all 5 feet, 11 inches of me—yet, we could nearly look at each other eye to eye. Turns out, she and her gentleman companion (who had a walker) needed some help getting down the stairs. When I stood up to help, the difference in our height became even more extreme.
My inner dialogue went something like: “How am I going to help this man get downstairs when the elevator is out of order?”
But then she said, “My oh my, you ARE a big one, aren’t you?”
I looked down at her. Okay, maybe it was a bit of a glare. But before I could reply, she did go on to say, “But you can be as big as you are because you have good features on that face of yours.”
What could I say? I smiled and simply said, “Thank you. My brother is 6 feet, 7 inches” (true). “We make ’em tall in my family.”
Meanwhile, my inner critic started revving her engine. My thoughts quickly ranged from being critical of the woman: “Who says something like that to someone?” To being critical of myself: “I know I’m not thin but “BIG”? How about Tall? Why can’t short people call me TALL? Do I look big today???”
Three years ago, this little old lady’s drive-by feedback would have driven me to go on a diet, or I’d have soothed my wounded feelings with some good chocolate. But the good news is my Inner Critic nonsense lasted about 60 seconds. Her engine ran out of fuel. Why?
Because I simply PAUSED.
Took a breath.
First, I told myself that I’m A-OK just the way I am and smiled. I refrained from saying anything (either out loud or in my mind) that was critical of the little old lady at the community theater. She simply gave me an opportunity to practice holding her (and myself) in warm regard.
Developing as a leader means cultivating the ability to PAUSE when you want to strike out at a colleague who you think is slacking in his or her responsibilities. Or when your inner critic tries to rip you to shreds for coming up short on an unattainable goal. Drive-by feedback can derail relationships with co-workers and ourselves, but great leaders know that by taking the time to pause, it doesn’t have to.
We all have an inner critic. What do you do when yours flares up? Please share your insights with us in the comments section below.
Susan MacKenty Brady is the wife of Jamie Brady, the mother of Caroline and Abigail Brady, a daughter, sister, aunt, and friend to many (too few hear from her often enough), an Executive Vice President and Principal Consultant at Linkage, an Executive Coach, and a champion of advancing the acceleration of women leaders. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Susanmbrady1.