A close friend of mine does this annoying thing where, months after an event, she’ll tell me sheepishly that something was off.
The dress I wore didn’t fit right. Or my hair was sticking up the entire time.
Why, I’ll ask her, didn’t you tell me then?
Her response is always the same: “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”
This pattern is what came to mind for me while I was reading Tasha Eurich’s new book, “Insight.” Eurich, an organizational psychologist, argues that most people don’t know how others really see them — and she gives readers tools for learning more about the impression they’re making.
When she visited the Business Insider office in May, Eurich shared a few specific solutions for finding out how your coworkers see you. Here are two that stood out to us:
1. Find one or two ‘loving critics’
That’s Eurich’s term for “people who will be honest with us while still having our best interests at heart,” as she writes in the book.
Or, as she told Business Insider, people who are “willing to give you the good, the bad, and the ugly about your performance.”
Finding your loving critics can be tricky. You don’t necessarily want to choose someone you’re super close with, like your best friend at work. That, Eurich writes, could make the conversation more emotionally charged than it needs to be.
You just have to make sure there’s a level of trust between you and your loving critic — it could be a coworker you’re not that friendly with, or a casual acquaintance.
You should also ensure that the loving critic is someone you work with on a regular basis, meaning they see the behavior(s) you want feedback on.
2. Arrange a ‘power lunch of truth’
Choose someone you work with regularly, and who you think would be willing to tell you the truth.
Eurich said: “Give them a heads-up that, at lunch, you would like to get their feedback on what you’re doing in the team that’s helping you be most successful, and the behavior you’re showing up with that might be hurting you or getting in the way of you being as successful as you could be.”
You may need to ask clarifying questions — for example, “Can you give me an example of that?” or, “Have you seen me doing that more or less recently?”
The most important part of the power lunch of truth is to really listen. As Eurich said, “Your job in that conversation is to make them feel comfortable telling you the truth, and also to learn as much as you possibly can.”
These strategies can be especially useful for people in positions of power. Eurich and other researchers have documented a curious phenomenon in which, “the higher you ascend on the corporate ladder, the less self-aware you become.”
In fact, many execs wind up struggling with “CEO disease,” mistakenly believing they’re doing a great job because no one’s telling them otherwise.
“What happens when you’re at the top of the food chain in particular is the standards for performance are murkier,” Eurich said. What’s more, “people are afraid to speak truth to power, and that’s you in this situation.”
Another tip Eurich recommends is simple, but incredibly difficult:
“Be vulnerable yourself. That’s the opposite of what a lot of execs think they should be doing.
“But [you can] say, ‘I didn’t do that as well as I wanted to,’ or maybe, ‘That investor call didn’t go quite as well as I wanted it to. How can we make it better the next time?’
“As much as you can show that you’re imperfect, it earns that trust and respect, so that people will be more likely to tell you the truth.”