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I Failed Them. The World Didn't End. — From Lindsey's Desk

Three times this week, someone told me that it felt like I didn’t have their back. Like any Enneagram Heart Type, I can tell you exactly what time of day it was, what I was wearing, and where I felt these words in my body. (Spoiler alert: in my heart. It felt like a knife in my heart.)

Look, I don’t like to fail, and when it comes to the people in my life — especially my team members — I REALLY DON’T LIKE TO FAIL. If thinking about and scrutinizing every word before it comes out of your mouth was an Olympic sport, I’d be performing like Dominique Dawes all day long.

But as I sat there shocked and frozen by their feedback, I had to let the reality seep in that I did, for this person at least, fail to meet them where they needed me to.

Thankfully, we already have a framework for processing failure that I could reach for as I sat silently taking in each person’s brave and vulnerable feedback. As a result, here’s what I am taking into August and beyond, in my ongoing commitment to doing the work:

1. Sometimes support is in what you say, and sometimes support is in what you don’t say.

You give me a problem and I want to solve it. I want to throw time, energy, resources, Care-Bear Stares and whatever else I have in my toolbox at your problem.

You: I want you to just listen

Me: Does not compute. Does not compute. Does not compute 🔁

It makes my motherboard overheat just thinking about it. But sometimes as a lover, parent, or leader, the best advice or support you can give is the silent assurance that you trust that person to figure it out by themselves.

(Note: as I write this, my brain is still fighting me on leaning into this lesson. Whoa!)

2. Just because you don’t need it, doesn’t mean you can’t give it.

I am not good at receiving compliments. I get all awkward and squirmish and never know what to say in response. And let’s go ahead and name that I deeply struggle with internalized perfectionism, so often even as you are giving me the compliment I am already explaining it away in my head. But for many people on my team, compliments are like Skittles. Never saw one you didn’t want to eat.

Knowing this, I have actively scheduled ‘compliment giving’ into my daily workflow — but sometimes I still drop the ball, especially when I’m tired. So when a team member came to me recently to say that their compliment cup was running a little dry, it wasn’t time to get defensive. I KNOW I suck at this skill, so better to just apologize and thank them for the bravery to name their need.

For every partner, parent, leader out there listening, a reminder, if the person opposite you is telling you how you missed the mark, that means they are still engaged in the relationship. It’s when people become apathetic and secretive that we should be really concerned.

3. Learning new ways of being requires just as much attention as unlearning old ways of being.

We keep joking at LTHJ Global about creating an onboarding detox program from traditional corporate environments. But the more we joke about it, the more serious we get. Transitioning from a bad relationship or a bad company requires some time and processing — yet many times, we forget to make agreements with ourselves about what we want to leave behind; or with others about what behaviors we are still recovering from. The result is that we inadvertently bring unhealthy patterns into our new relationships, and project past hurts onto new experiences.

Several times this week, I had the opportunity to reflect with the person opposite me about what was true and present in our relationship, and what was baggage from past hurts and experiences. In doing so, we were able to bring ourselves back to what was present much more honestly, and to focus on problem-solving together. (Okay, yes, I defaulted back to problem-solving… I’m still growing!)

If you are struggling with a breakdown in communication at home or at work, congratulations: you are normal. At school we learn a lot about what will happen when two trains leave at separate times, but very little about how to have an effective conversation. But fear not, weary traveler! The struggle is real, but so are the solutions. You can check out more of our articles here on Medium for those, or sign up for one of our monthly Leadership Roundtables where we discuss these types of growth points.

And remember: Diversity is the norm.

Reach out when you are ready to do the work.

Lindsey T. H. Jackson

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