Losing the Butterflies


Butterflies! Not the ones you find fluttering softly by your nose or the ones daintily perched on the beautiful tulips in your mom’s garden.


I mean the big, black, nuisances that create ‘laxitivirous’ sand storms in your stomach whenever you bump into a celebrity, do a presentation, or have a meeting with your boss.

Come to think of it, I’m amused at how difficult I find it to talk to people, especially people who I perceive to be in a higher social position than I am. I find myself bloated with said black butterflies at the prospect of communicating my thoughts, feelings, and opinions to them. I fear the thought of being “shot-down”, or rejected.

This personal trait became blatantly obvious to me when I started my internship, and even more so when I was called in for my very first performance review.


The performance review


I was told to fear it. And I did. What was I going to say? What was the manager going to say? – Mind you, before I even entered this meeting, I had made the difficult decision not to continue with my internship at the company once my contract ended, and this particular event would be the day I would have to tell them. How would I do this without having it affect the quality of my next few weeks on the job?

 Well, to make a very long story short; after 1 sleepless night, 3 calming tablets, and 2 tablespoons of heartburn medicine, I found out that I had nothing to worry about.


And here’s why:


Showing respect for people at every given moment is the key to any form of communication. This was relevant in my case. I had to foster a genuine respect for my manager, not a respect based on fear, but rather a healthy respect based on an understanding that my manager had worked hard to be sitting in front of me as my superior.

 Albert Camus once said that “Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear” and I whole heartedly agree. Employers can smell fear, and it irritates them. Prof Jonathan Jansen, a patron of Fetola’s Graduate Asset Programme and the Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the University of the Free State supports the need for confidence and fearless respect when he says that “Real confidence means looking someone in the eye when speaking, or confidently gripping the hand of a client during greeting, or taking the lead in a conversation when everybody else seems to be floundering.” Not only does this show respect for others, but for you as well.



I remember walking into my small recording studio at home, switching on the microphone and recording all my concerns and fears onto a single track and listening to them again and again. After about the forth cycle of listening to myself complain, I got irritated with myself enough to take action. I grabbed a piece of paper and answered all my own concerns and fears as candidly as I could.


“What must I say?”                                        Timothy, say what you have to say. Say no more, and say no less. Whatever you say, though… say it honestly and respectfully.


“What is my manager going to say?”       She is going to say whatever she says and YOU are going to respond honestly and respectfully.


“What if I say the wrong thing?”               Then apologize and say it again honestly and respectfully – and whatever you do, DON’T CRY!


Granted, this was a very weird way of planning what I was going to say, but it sincerely helped me on the journey to gaining enough confidence and respect in myself to be able to relay my thoughts to and concerns to my manager.



Hearing can be defined as the perception of sound. For example, you hear a passing car, or you hear the rain outside your window. Listening is defined as paying attention to the perceived sound. For example, you listen to the engine of a passing car and realize that it might need a service, or you listen to the rain falling outside your window and can tell that it’s not a heavy shower.

 Bryant H. McGill said, “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”  If you don’t listen, you won’t understand. Understanding is a key element in effective interpersonal communication and is the foundation you stand on in order to respond in a well-informed manner.

 In my case, I am constantly making an effort to understand. As a new graduate, my first performance review was burdened with workplace jargon that I did not grasp. For me to completely grasp each concept (in order to respond in an informed manner) I had to ask questions. That is what separates “hearing” from “listening” – making an effort to understand.



I had the opportunity to work with Catherine Wijnberg, founder at Fetola, who has 20 years of experience in the world of SME’s. As a new graduate, I would approach her with, what I thought, were clever, out of the box ideas. She would promptly overwhelm me with countless reasons why it should or shouldn’t be done the way I thought it should. In the process, I learnt.


I realized that I was ignorant when it came to the work environment and I knew that I would have to put in the extra time to learn and grow. Would I have realized this if I didn’t take the risk to make my voice heard? Maybe, but not as quickly and as effectively.

 I learnt my true value as an employee after respectfully and honestly voicing my thoughts and opinions at my performance review. I was surprised to hear that my manager considered me an asset to the company and that my contract was being considered for extension.

 Don’t be afraid to talk. At the very least, your thoughts and opinions will teach you something. Be confident in knowing that you don’t know – and learn.


So, if you want to watch those little black butterflies flutter away – show respect, plan, listen, and speak.


SOURCE BY: Timothy Stuurman


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