In a previous post, I explained the different breeds of bad training partners, and we all had a good laugh. After all, who hasn’t encountered someone like that? But then the question sneaks into the back of your mind, like a cold draft through the door—what if that’s me?
Let’s be realistic. Nobody’s perfect. Everyone has bad training habits or weird personality quirks. But how do we know when those quirks have crossed the line from “harmless” to “obnoxious?” How can you tell when you’ve stopped being a “good guy to train with” and become an “erm, no?”
Compare your behavior with others
Are you the only one at the gym who runs backward on the treadmill? Are you the only author you know who hums as he writes? Are you the only sparring partner in the dojo that doesn’t pull his punches?
That might be the first clue you’re a bad training partner.
Look, I get it. You’re just trying to express your personality. Or maybe you think, “this is a great, innovative way to do things that nobody’s ever done before and it’ll be the secret to my success.” You’re straying from the norm because the norm is boring and conformist and ineffective.
But norms exist for a reason. Safety. Courtesy. Common sense. You have the freedom to stray from those norms, of course, but know that some people aren’t going to look too kindly upon it.
Pay attention to reactions
I don’t want to turn you into a nervous paranoid wreck, but when’s the last time you paid attention to how people react to you? As in really paid attention? When you yelled at the top of your lungs at the bench press, were those girls smiling at you, or laughing? I know which one it is, but I wonder if you do (but then if you’re reading this article, then you probably have enough self-awareness to be worried.)
Being observant is well and good, but it’s colored by the fact that you’re making still making assumptions. The guy laughing at you might actually be laughing at the TV you’re standing under, for instance.
If you really want to know what people think, nothing tops direct feedback.
Listen to what people are telling you
The problem with direct feedback, however, is that it doesn’t always take. Humans are notoriously bad at taking advice. We listen to the comments we like, and discard the comments we don’t. So when four separate people tell us that we need to be quiet on the putting green, we say “okay” and forget about it—and then act surprised when the golf club slaps us with a fine.
People don’t normally go out of their way to tell a complete stranger to stop doing something. So that should be an automatic “hey, maybe I should stop.” It’ll save you from having to do the last point:
Ask (but be ready for the response)
If the last three points haven’t helped and you’re still stumped, then get proactive. Find someone whose opinion you trust and ask him straight up, “hey, am I doing anything that bothers you?”
He may not want to answer at first. He might not want to hurt your feelings, or he might think it’s a trick of some kind. But assure him that you won’t be defensive about his answer.
Then—and here’s the tricky part—don’t get defensive about his answer. You asked for his opinion, and he gave it. You already took a great step by asking.
The Final Word
Congratulations on your newfound self-awareness! Now that you know what the problem is, you’re much better equipped to improve yourself. And that, my friends, is what this blog is all about.
Image from Flickr, by Samantha Steele.