Blindspots, ironically, don’t discriminate. Smart people have them. Affluent people have them. Highly educated people have them. People in power have them. Good people have them. You have them.
Several weeks ago Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau confessed to a “massive blindspot” – he was found to have worn a blackface outfit to a costume party when he was in his late twenties.
Obviously, this wasn’t clarity of judgment. Blackface is offensive to African American people. It is a form of theatrical makeup used mostly by white performers to represent a caricature of African American people.
I’ve never met the PM. But I’m going to do something that I would do with just about anyone else in this pickle of a situation. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt that he meant no harm by his extremely poor judgment. I have read comments by people who know Mr. Trudeau and they’re favorable. They say he’s a decent guy with good values who wants what he thinks is best for all of the people of Canada.
To his credit the PM said this at his press conference responding to the calls for an explanation:
“I always acknowledged that I came from a place of privilege, but I now need to acknowledge that that privilege comes with a massive blindspot.”
The Prime Minister’s blindspot hijacked his clarity of thought and integrity of action. Whether you choose to forgive him for his action is a personal choice. I wouldn’t judge you either way. Forgiveness is perhaps the most powerful act one can choose, even forgiving someone for something he cannot see. He’s still responsible and must own up to it.
Blindspot episodes are opportunities to grow, and it takes a humble soul to trust that an embrace of the pain of the situation you caused will somehow lead to a better outcome. Weak leaders will double down on their behaviors and defend it. This makes their pain sort of go away, but only for a while, like when a bad hangover finally subsides. A pattern of defending blindspot behaviors causes weak leaders to build up a pressure cooker of unhealthy, undesirable emotions like bitterness, anger, judgment, or self-righteousness, to name a few.
Look around your office. Does someone you work with consistently exhibit blindspot behaviors that bother you? Make you mad? Frustrate you? Hurt you? You could try forgiving them for what they know not. Then, if you have the courage, and I don’t say that lightly, consider how you might make this person aware of his or her blindspot.
Consider telling the person how you are choosing to respond to his or her behavior, and how that affects you. This makes it partly about you, because you still control your choice. The minute you give that up you’ve relinquished control. Resist the urge to create an instant “aha” that will turn this person’s behavior around. It normally doesn’t work that way. Recently I found myself in a car ride to a downtown dinner event and asked the guy driving us, the senior most executive of the business I was consulting with, if he thought he sent signals to his staff about his wanting them to push back on him, to not be “yes men”, that were counter to his telling the staff to push back on him. He paused and considered the possibility. That’s progress.
Finally, turn the gaze inward and ask yourself what blindspots am I missing about me? Trust me they’re there.
Founder, Breakthrough Sales Performance LLC