Did you ever meet someone that made you tilt your head to one side and ask yourself, “How do they not see what they’re doing?”? The “banter” friend who makes joke after joke and doesn’t realise that no one else is laughing. The abrasive colleague who barges in and insists on their way of doing things, not stopping to ask anyone’s opinion. The creative type who thinks they’re being really deep, when really they’re being pretentious. How do these people not see how they’re coming across to others? Perhaps that’s the problem: they can’t see it.
In the most recent season of Taskmaster (if you haven’t seen Taskmaster, do it. I binged the whole eight seasons in a month), Iain Stirling, Paul Sinha (yep, from The Chase) and Lou Sanders were doing a team task where they had to put as many heavy things as possible into a hammock without the hammock tipping and dropping anything onto the floor. Normally on team tasks, the contestants work together, laugh when things go wrong and generally do a decent job of whatever they are asked to do. Not this team.
Iain Stirling (who, my friends tell me, is the voiceover guy from Love Island) immediately went off and did his own thing without communicating with the others. He shouted down his teammates’ ideas (which were better than his). He eventually acted like such a toddler that the others gave in and adjusted to his way, because they could see that he was just going to torpedo any other plan. And it was weird because throughout the other tasks he’d been such a lovely guy – so fun and playful and just plain happy to be there – but now it was clear the pressure was getting to him and he wanted to do well so badly that he was letting that stress spill out into how he interacted with the others.
Well, it was clear when you watched it back.
The setup of Taskmaster, if you haven’t seen it, is that the contestants spend months performing the tasks, and then they all get together to record the proper shows where they watch the tasks back and find out how they did compared to everyone else. Usually people get a bit embarrassed when they realise someone else came up with a much easier way of doing things, or they argue whether or not another contestant’s approach was “creative thinking” or just plain disregard of the rules. But usually everyone laughs it off, and the show continues.
However, when Iain Stirling watched back the team task, and the camera cut back to him, he didn’t laugh it off. He didn’t argue that his way was right. He leant over to Lou Sanders and said, “I am so, so sorry.” He had seen his behaviour from the outside, and he did not like the person he saw. When Alex Horne asked him what had happened on the task, he replied, “I genuinely do not want to talk about it.” At the time he’d thought nothing of his behaviour, but watching it back painted a whole new picture.
I wonder what we would each discover about ourselves if we could watch back a recording of our interactions with others. I wonder if we would be happy with the person we were watching, or if we’d not like them much at all. I wonder if we would still hold onto our perspective so tightly, or if the objective evidence would make us change our mind, or at least wish we’d phrased something differently.
So often I’ve found myself in meetings where two people are really going at it, and they’re so busy arguing they don’t realise that they’re both saying the exact same thing. Imagine if you could play back the conversation and help them hear it for themselves. Often, big corporations will try and do this; make employees act out scenarios and get their colleagues to give them feedback on how they’re coming across and what they could do better. Whether or not that works in a corporate setting is questionable, but maybe there are things we can do to try and see ourselves from the outside in.
If you’re a performer – if you sing or dance or act or speak publicly or whatever else – record yourself doing it and watch it back to see how you’re coming across and what you could improve. If you’re a creative type, put something you’ve made out there, anonymously, and find out what people think (stock up on ice cream first, though, just in case people are harsh). And for your day-to-day, working, interacting, relationship life, speak to a friend you trust – someone who really knows you – and ask them if you do anything that makes them tilt their head to one side and ask, “How do they not see what they’re doing?”
This is not for the faint-hearted. This is not advice for people who are happy living in their bubble and would like to keep it that way. No one wants their best friend to look them in the eye and tell them: you talk too much, you hide behind humour too often, you’re always telling people what to do (just three random examples…) It takes bravery to put yourself under the microscope and take a long, hard look – warts and all. It is no easy thing to put yourself out there and discover what other people really think, because you might not like what you find.
But the alternative? You carry on as you are, unknowingly annoying people around you, until you suddenly discover all your worst qualities in front of a TV studio audience as you watch yourself try to put a bunch of heavy things in a hammock with the Sinnerman from The Chase.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti