I was reading something about leadership the other day when a person responding to the article comment about how “inconsistency paralyzes those around you as a leader”.
Think about those word regardless of the leadership – “inconsistency paralyzes those around you.”
As I began thinking about these words, I realized how I could apply them to many situations in my life. Where my reaction is based on the inconsistency of the people with whom I’m dealing.
For example, I recall vividly during the first year of our open marriage, G having a lizard attack. He was incredibly jealous that I had someone who wanted to drop anything and play. At the time, he did not have the same thing in a play partner. His reactions to situations where this playmate was involved was so inconsistent – supportive one minute, frustrated at my attention to him another – that I did not know how to react or what to say or when to say it. I felt paralyzed by him and his emotions.
In the end, we had a talk that said the same thing but in different words – and he realized what he was doing to me. How he had created an environment where I didn’t know what was acceptable or unacceptable because of his inconsistencies.
Look at your friendships. Do you have people that sort of drift in and out or participate when they feel its convenient yet look for you to participate 100% of the time? Think about how that inconsistency influences your thinking.
When I encounter it, I don’t know what to say or do or expect from someone who claims I am important. That inconsistency in their response to me – their inconsistency in actions vs words – results in me not sure where I stand. Not sure how much energy I should put forth. Not sure how much I should share because “they care” yet “they don’t care”. It creates an environment where you spend so much time trying to sort it out that you lose what you need.
Look at work. People who are inconsistent in their deliverables to you. Do you trust them? Do you give them anything of value? Do you find yourself building contingency plans before you start because you can’t count on what they will say or do?
I reflect on myself many times to make sure that the inconsistent reactions or responses I’m getting from people aren’t a result of the paralysis inflicted on them by my own inconsistency.
Are people in my life backing off because they don’t know who they are going to meet today when talking with me?
Am I doing what I say?
Am I responding the same each time to those I care about?
While some believe that expectations are at the heart of all trouble, I believe it is a combination of expectation and consistency. If people were more consistent – for better or for worse – people would spend less time spinning how how to handle a situation – and more time just handling it. The emotional and mental energy could be spent elsewhere.
It’s no different than watching a child getting inconsistent messages from the adults in their lives.
Adults just do it with far less screaming.