Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

The Brothers Grimm, Walt Disney and the Glass Association of North America would have you believe that mirrors never lie. That is probably true to a certain extent. As we learned from the first attempt to get deep space photos from the Hubble Space Telescope, sometimes a mirror can have hidden flaws that must be corrected to have a clearer picture of the objects we want to see. Unless you are a wicked queen with plans to cook up some poison apples, the distortion seen in a mirror is often not due to an inaccurate reflection, but the perception of that image by the one peering into the glass.

It is difficult to see yourself clearly through the eyes of others. Even our reflections in a mirror can change with the angle of vision and lighting. Many ladies’ dressing table mirrors come equipped with a switch that can alter the light to simulate evening, office, home or daylight. After compensating for all of the variables, appraising that single best look remains a matter of judgment. If you were able to look into that fantasy talking mirror that always tells the truth, what would you see?

Fake Competence – Sometime in our childhood when the kids on the playground teased each other because of some made up rule, we learned that the best defense against being bullied was to pretend to be stronger than everybody else and know all the rules. Time passes and we carry those memories of needing to be all-powerful and all-knowing out in the world to our daily lives. Then one day the voice from the mirror [or a person that calls our bluff] reveals all the weaknesses we have been trying to hide. Busted! To continue our lives without having to lie to everyone and to ourselves, we find a way to gain the abilities that we need to succeed.

False Confidence – Telling lies is one thing, but believing them is another. The problem with telling lies about our abilities to others or ourselves is that it spreads like a forest fire as time passes. As we continue to mouth the words “I’m OK” the voice from the mirror [or that subtle voice inside us] continues to say “No, you’re not!” It gets louder and louder until backing off and fixing the root cause begins to take over. Self confidence is a matter of repetition in an area of weakness until it becomes strength.  

Faux Passion – There are so many ways to express passion that it is somewhat humorous that there is now a universal catch phrase to “Follow your passion.” That might be good advice unless fickle passion flits around and lands on something not worthy of passion. When we say “This is my passion” the voice from the mirror [or a conflict with another passion] shouts that it is really OK to have more than one passion and that it may be necessary to change passions when life changes. Giving lip service to a passion can’t fool the mirror or your inner spirit.

What does all this have to do with human resources? First and foremost, there is a phrase borrowed from Alcoholics Anonymous with Biblical origins, “Physician, heal thyself.” Anyone involved in managing people have to understand being managed and must also be guided by self discipline before they can successfully manage others. Secondly, there is a phrase stolen from the Hippocratic Oath that instructs us “First, do no harm.” In working with other people, understanding that they have reflections and talking mirrors to guide them means that they must be allowed to listen and learn. It is not always about providing unsolicited free guidance on their inner workings.    

Image credit: © Roaring Reflections