How to Avoid the "I" Mentality
There is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with confidence. In fact, it takes a certain level of confidence to be successful - but I am NOT talking about being confident - I AM talking about recognizing when you sink into a mental state of engaging with others for the sole purpose of selfish gain; such as attention, praise, financial reward…what we will call the “I” Mentality.
Some may ask – what is so wrong with that? Why WOULD you do something if you are not receiving some sort of tangible reward for your time and effort? I once knew someone who had committed to a 2-year volunteer position, and in less than 6 months, told me that she could not see involving herself much more in the organization because she felt that she just wasn’t getting anything out of it. We are all familiar with the expression that “you get out what you put in”, and an argument could be made that 6 months may not have been enough time to evaluate the situation and use sound judgement in forming such a definitive conclusion.
This is just one example of how the “I” Mentality can be troublesome in cultivating, maintaining, and ultimately sustaining relationships. Today, there are tons of high-tech tools and social media platforms that make it easier for us to get and stay connected. That being said, sometimes the ease of connection allows us to generate relationships that are one-dimensional and superficial. It becomes more important to ask yourself WHY you may get involved in something or with someone and WHAT the potential outcomes may be before it is too late…too late to disengage from an unhealthy relationship or negative situation or too late to salvage your reputation.
Before committing to invest your time and energy into a business, project, person, or idea…here are some suggestions that can help you avoid the “I” Mentality.
Tighten your inner circle. This should be a VERY SMALL group of trusted friends and mentors who not only care about you, but can be transparent and share their assessment of who, what, where you are, and what you are doing. These are people who will encourage you and support you, yet will not “jump ship” if your decision does not align with their opinions or recommendations. Their viewpoint from the outside of a particular situation or scenario is vital when your own perspective may be blurred. A healthy interaction with your mentors allows for more confident decision-making, rather than being reactive, hasty, or impulsive and can also help keep you from jumping to conclusions simply because you weren’t “feeling it” in that moment.
Collaborate with others. We were born to collaborate. Ideas are not necessarily our own, but often times our individual perspective or interpretation of an existing thought or concept. Collaboration opens your mind to acknowledge distinct points of view. Sharing and working with others can help you sort through your interpretation and can bring clarity, while other times, it drives change and growth. Fundamental to the process is the underlying reality that in order to work with others, you need to have others to work with…you need to have RELATIONSHIPS!
Practice the art of active and respectful communication. Authentic relationships are grounded in effective communication. The self-absorbed context of the “I” Mentality can erode relationships because it is rooted in selfishness. The connections are not genuine because there is no interest in the other partner(s), there is no reciprocation. Communication and collaboration require respectful communication - not listening until it is your turn to reply or respond, but simply listening. Taking that next step to CONNECT to someone demonstrates both vulnerability and authenticity. Meetings, conversations, or even phone calls with friends and colleagues are tremendous opportunities to practice this skill.
Keep your social media posts in check. This can be tricky! If you are comfortable and confident in your own social media voice, this will be simpler, as the INTENT should align with the VOICE that is communicating the message. When asked to post as a representative of an organization, business, or group, it becomes more important to step back and examine not only your role within the organization, but the content and context of the message. If you are on the payroll, make certain you NOT allow your personal agenda to affect your professional responsibilities. Once you generate a post, pause for a moment and read it from the general public’s perspective BEFORE you publish. There is an understated difference between posting about what you are doing and how the outcomes may positively affect others vs. the “Hey, look at me!” or “Hey, look at what I did!” post that merely focuses the attention on the achievement. For example, a post that reads “I am so proud to …” even with the most genuine intentions, can read as selfish because the focus has shifted to what YOU did, what YOU were part of, or what YOU achieved. Instead, a preferred option would be “I am blessed for the opportunity to …” which broadens the focus and expresses gratitude. Written posts are very 2-dimensional and can lack context because they are simply words on a screen.
The “I” Mentality can not only create an unhealthy work environment, but erode personal and professional relationships as well. There may be circumstances in which you are forced to make a difficult decision and stand up for yourself. It may be a situation that is just beginning to deteriorate, or the bottom may have already fallen out. The philosophy, behaviors, and decisions of the individual(s) and/or organization may have created an environment that is no longer aligned with your values and principles. There may be no choice other than ending the relationship. (See “Disconnecting to Connect: 5 Ways to Leave it Behind”)
Above all, it comes down to INTEGRITY. Integrity is the key to overcoming the ugly “I” Mentality. Ask WHY are you involved – will your thoughts and efforts truly help to improve the current situation? Are you getting involved simply to feel included? Do you seek recognition? INTEGRITY is doing what you say you will do and is deliberately choosing your thoughts and actions based on values, rather than personal gain. Like the individual who felt she wasn’t getting anything out of her appointment, committing to something or someone and not following through, but staying involved solely for the job title, diminishes the legitimacy of their character. The “I” Mentality can destroy personal and professional relationships. Be cautious with your words and be careful with your actions.
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Dr. Natalie Phillips is the founder and CEO of Connect4Excellence, a company dedicated to connect individuals and their businesses to their own mission and culture, to connect to others at events, to connect their own unique voice with a bigger audience, and to connect to give back. She is passionate about building deep relationships and authentic connections to help make a difference in the world together. She is committed to assisting both men and women to become more of who they are and to live out their brand. She believes in creating environments in which people can connect on different levels to help their businesses succeed.
Dr. Phillips is an Audiologist with Advanced Otolaryngology and Audiology in Fort Collins, Colorado. In addition to diagnosing and treating hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance disorders of the ear, she volunteers her time as a Global Hearing Ambassador to travel overseas with the Starkey Hearing Foundation, most recently to India, Peru, Guyana, and Mexico to deliver the gift of hearing and connect them to life by fitting hearing aids on people who are unable to afford the technology.
She is a founding sister of Women Unite, a group of women whose mission is to inspire, ignite, and assist other women achieve their potential in today’s professional setting. Dr. Phillips is a Global Ambassador Emeritus and served on the Legacy Project Steering Committee, as well as currently serves as Colorado Chapter Leader for Empowering A Billion Women by 2020, an initiative to provide the tools, technology, and resources to empower women as leaders and successful entrepreneurs.