In this post we’ll show you a surprising way to improve your people skills, while also learning something about yourself.
And what if you were told the truth, and you could use it to improve your self-image and become more adequate in your relations with other people?
You could, that is: if you accept Carl Jung’s proposition. He proposes that when you look at what someone else’s attitude means to you, this usually reveals what you secretly think about your own attitude.
It is confrontational, but it may also be insightful to look into this mirror that other people can be for you. It teaches you something valuable about yourself, and helps you to add value to others.
How does this help you develop your people skills?
When you look into the ‘mirror’ of other people you like or approve of, there’s nothing to see that needs developing. Usually, your people skills work just fine when you deal with people you like, or whose attitude you approve of.
It’s usually more difficult and you need to pay attention to your people skills only when people have an attitude you don’t like or don’t approve of.
That’s exactly the moment you can use these people as a mirror. This enables you to ‘magically’ learn something about yourself, and also improve your skills in working with people with an attitude you don’t like. How?
We propose that you use Carl Jung’s idea to see what this says about yourself, turn this around, and give to other people what you need from them.
Let’s see how this would work in practice
Let’s say you experience some negativity in your dealings with other people. Their attitude may hurt you, annoy you or even make you angry. Perhaps there is even a valid reason to feel this way.
It’s fair to assume the major thing about these peoples’ attitude is that they don’t do something you think they should do. You miss something, something that would be the most natural thing for you to do in these circumstances.
Now a flattering magic mirror would tell you that it’s all due to the other persons’ character faults. Not yours, you are of course ‘the fairest one of all.’ It’s the other person whose attitude needs to change!
This doesn’t help us to explore our own involvement in the situation and take responsibility for adaptation and amelioration.
What you need is a magic mirror that tells you the truth, but also helps you to see a way to change that inspires you, fits in with who you are, and shows you a way to easy application. How would this work?
What is your response?
You look into the ‘mirror’ of the other person’s attitude. You notice you miss something. What should your response be? Tell the other person to change? That is of course what we are often tempted to do. But is that effective? Usually not, you have to admit.
An effective response has to be based on a straightforward recognition of the way the world actually is, and not on how you need the world to be. This should be at the core of your response.
People are the way they are, and they usually don’t change because you ask them to. But what would happen if you saw these people as a mirror of your own attitude? Then the following could happen.
Add yourself what you miss in other people’s attitude
What you miss in the attitude of others, Jung proposes, you didn’t add.
So what do you experience as a downside while dealing with other people? The answer will expose what you could and perhaps even should reconsider about your own attitude, approach, and actions towards other people.
Remember that in this blog we operate from the viewpoint that other people function as our mirror. In this regard, what you would like other people to do to you, could point you to what you could easily give to other people.
Let’s say you are a friendly person, who likes others to be friendly as well. When others aren’t friendly, our suggestion would be to respond in a friendly manner, with the care and consideration you think of as showing friendliness.
Use the ‘mirror’ to add value
You will notice, perhaps even during the interaction or soon after, that you have acted in line with who you are, in accordance with your values and often also serving your goal.
You have created value for yourself, but in the process you have also created value for the other person in a way that is important to you.
Only when you have done this first, does it make sense to ask ‘the magic mirror’ a question and get proper feedback.
People will perhaps not change their attitude immediately, but you will notice that you have changed your own attitude towards them. Sooner or later this will have its effect. You have learned something about yourself, and improved your people skills into the bargain.
A magic mirror that shows you the truth
Perhaps you will not always be ‘the fairest’ when you look into your magic mirror, and people will still not always show an attitude towards you that you like.
But at least you are true to who you are, what you value, and what you want. There can’t be any other way leading towards your goal.
Be who you are, it’s good enough to present to others. The chance is good other people will present themselves as they are towards you. Why? You were their mirror too. So present your true self.
© Iris Dorreboom and Rudi de Graaf
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 Carl Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist, founder of analytic psychology, who is best known today for his ideas about introversion and extraversion, the collective unconscious and synchronicity. Look at this Wikipedia article for more information: Carl Jung