Wednesday, September 06, 2006

How We're Perceived in the Presence of Others

In the early '80s when I was at the Anchorage (AK) CVB, we called on Roher, Hibler and Replogle. RHR at the time was a pioneer in management consulting and organizational development, kind of a precursor to coaching. In Durham we do the same with Performance Management, Inc.

I often recall a statement the consultant said to me in passing one day. He said, “You see everyone as equals, but other people don’t. Many people see people as friends or enemies, losers or winners, allies or obstacles.” He went on to explain, “You don’t realize the impact you have on people in your presence.”

It struck home, but more than 20 years later, I’m better but I’m still really not cognizant of the impact I have on people in my presence. The consultant told me I would always have problems with this... something about intense focus.

My hands shake. It began as a young boy, and it has gotten steadily worse. It’s called familial or essential tremor. The condition isn’t degenerative, but it’s embarrassing. I’ve read it’s a distant relative of Parkinson’s.

My first recollection was in the second or third grade when the teacher had us all gathered around a table to make a rock garden with “bluing.” It was like bleach, and you couldn’t spill it, but sure enough, she handed the bottle to me and said, “Pour only a small amount and be very careful.” The rest is history.

In high school I was the first person to learn to type (out of self-preservation). In my 40s, I even had to change my writing hand… but now they are both just as bad.

I see people during conversations suddenly become focused on my hands. I can see them wonder if I’m nervous, and maybe it sometimes makes me more human to them… less confident, assured, focused, intent… some make jokes that get back to me. Others assume I’m either vulnerable or ready to come loose on them. ;-)

I really do see everyone as equals, and I guess that isn’t going to change; neither will the tremor in my hands.

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