My neighbor stopped me on the stairs to ask how I’m doing.
Two weeks ago my husband got news of a long awaited transfer, and she knows we have been busily preparing for the transition.
“It’s hard,” I said.
“I know,” she answered. “I told my husband that when we moved here, it was one of the most stressful times I can remember, and it was just the two of us then. I can’t imagine what it’s like with all your kids. I think I read that moving is on the top of the most stressful life events list.”
So this morning, I took at look at a life events stress test. Even when you add up all the associated changes with this move: change in residence, new mortgage, major change in living conditions, change in social activities, change in frequency of family gatherings — the relative amount of stress still doesn’t come close to the stress caused by the major three (death of spouse, divorce, marital separation.)
A simplistic test, of course, can’t reflect the nuances of a situation. To get a true read on my stress level, you would need to ask the right questions and listen carefully to my response. If I were transparent in sharing my answers, you would get a much more accurate reading than the one the online test gave.
But do you really want to know?
In the workplace, or out, how much transparency do we want? Yesterday, I read a blog post from a woman sharing about her hysterectomy, thanking her uterus for its faithful service. Penelope Trunk made national news recently when she tweeted about a miscarriage, while it was happening, during a business meeting. These type of posts can be really helpful to read, especially if you are experiencing a similar situation.
But what about day to day, with people you know or talk to regularly? Do you want them to be transparent, sharing about their health crisis, family, or marital problems? Or would you prefer that they carefully put on their game face and carry on as usual?
This was originally posted at Mountain State University LeaderTalk and is re-posted with permission.
I am the founder/CEO of the Weaving Influence team, the author of Reach: Creating the Biggest Possible Audience for Your Message, Book, or Cause, and the host of the Book Marketing Action Podcast. I’m a wife and mom of three kids, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, coffee, and dark chocolate.
I think that there is a danger here of mistaking transparency with openness (and lack of discretion for that matter). It reminds me of the distinctions between truth and honesty. Some will argue that a statement might be true but misleading or not full disclosure. (Others would take a different perspective that honesty is one’s perception of a truth.)
I think all of this hoopla regarding transparency is about disclosure. What is it that we feel should be disclosed? Are we being mislead? Personally, I don’t need a leader to always tell me the truth and give me all the facts. But I do want him or her to be honest if when they tell me that they do or don’ t know something. Or they aren’t in a position to disclose what I want to know. I don’t necessarily want details – I want do know a person’s intentions. Then I will make a decision if I will “trust” or believe them in a specific situation. It is about character and a big part of character is discretion.
Knowing about one’s uterus or the details of a miscarriage in my view has nothing to do with transparency – regardless of appropriateness. I am also reminded that the concept of transparency is generally a western cultural norm or value and has different interpretations is other cultures. So discretion and appropriateness also become key components.
I like this humour. When I have been overly direct, I like to say . . . “I am not rude, I am refreshingly blunt.” Transparent – maybe. Appropriate maybe not.
There’s a big difference in being transparent so that others may benefit from your experience and in self-disclosing due to your own ego need for affirmation, sympathy or something else. I think mature, emotionally healthy people are comfortable in their own skin and so appropriate transparency is natural for them. An interest in helping others learn/grow from your own life lessons, in the right context, is a good reason to share.
With regard to your questions at the end of you post, I think it depends. Sometimes we’re in a good place ourselves and ready to listen and respond to another’s disclosure. Other times we are preoccupied with our own life struggles and don’t have the energy to absorb any more. In the latter case, we shouldn’t invite people to talk if we’re not able to be emotionally available for them.