"The Princes Bride" is one of my all-time favorite movies and books. To this day it remains one of the most quotable films of all time, mostly because some of the classic lines have so many applications in life. Over the next few posts, we'll examine some of those lines and the insights they have for us in our daily lives both at work and personally.
"As you wish."
This was Westley's three-word code for, "I love you." Westley was madly in love with the soon-to-be princess Buttercup, but was not in a position to say those three words just yet. He didn't feel worthy of her love and wasn't in a position, he felt, to support her and give her the life she deserved. Conversely, he also knew that she wasn't ready to hear those three magic words yet, either. He instinctively knew that to utter, "I love you," too soon would destroy their chances at happiness. In fact, for him to say that phrase before she was prepared to hear it, might cause the opposite effect that he intended - pushing her away before he could have the opportunity to sweep her off of her feet.
So, what's the lesson?
Often when coaching our teams, we jump the gun. We say too much too soon, before our teams are quite ready to hear the brutal, honest truth. The best way to reach them as we groom them and shepherd them to success, is to ease them into the truth they cannot yet know. For example, as an actor I yearned to be on the stage. I wanted to inspire others through creating characters that were memorable and honest. However, early on, one of my mentors crushed those dreams by saying, "You'll end up being a teacher." I resented this and fought against it for a long time. I thought he was in effect saying, "You suck as an actor and will never achieve your goal." It hurt.
Why did it hurt?
Because I wasn't ready to hear it. Ultimately, he was right - my gifts have led me to coach, train and teach every day of my life. And I love it! However, to hear that so early in my career almost sent me down the opposite path - resenting the very idea. How could he have handled it differently, knowing that my young, fragile ego wouldn't be able handle it? Perhaps he could have encouraged me to be in positions of leadership. He could have made opportunities for me to mentor other acting students. Maybe he could have asked me to share my personal acting method with freshmen. Any of these actions would have put me in a position to teach, without telling me "You'll end up being a teacher." Does that make sense?
So how do we apply this to our everyday journeys? When you have to have a tough talk with an employee or someone that you mentor or coach, find ways to say what you need to say without saying them. You could use a story, a scene from a film, or a quote that illustrates your points. Find ways to draw out of them what you want to say to them. If you can find a way to guide them to coming to the same conclusion without you saying it, a new form of ownership takes place. What we conceive we construct; what we design we develop.
The same applies to our relationships. Have you ever tried to tell a friend, "You do realize you're in love with that other person?" or "You have a crush on them?" How does that usually work for you? They tend to fight with all of their might, right? Often they come up with 1000 different reasons why it isn't true. The trick is getting them to uncover it on their own by asking questions that encourage them to reveal to themselves their own feelings.
The challenge this week is to find your own "As You Wish" moments. Look for opportunities where you can say something without saying it. It takes practice, but you'll find the results are much more worthwhile and powerful at times. Do this as often as you wish, and you'll find your ability to touch others and inspire them will increase exponentially.