It takes one to know one

by Philip Patston

I get a lot of people telling me how wonderful, amazing, inspirational, etc, etc, they think I am. To be honest, it gets a bit tedious and it’s difficult to respond to such compliments, because they are often unnecessary.

Mostly, I’m just out doing unadmirable, uninspiring stuff, like having lunch.

Over the years I’ve developed a standard response: “Thanks, it takes one to know one.” It graciously returns the compliment and, unless the person is a complete neanderthal, they get the wit and, usually, any disability-related tension is dispelled.

Last weekend, during my first weekend at Leadership New Zealand, we looked at the phenomenon of (psychological) projection.  In short, projection is when we react to the behaviour or qualities (positive or negative) of others when we either recognise it or desire it in ourselves.

I learnt about projection when I trained in counselling, so it was interesting to place a leadership lens on it.

I realised that, “It takes one to know one,” is the perfect response  to projection because, literally, we would not notice and react to a behaviour or quality in someone else, unless we recognised its presence or absence in ourselves.

Projection is a human phenomenon. It’s something to be aware of, not free of.

And of course, if I find myself reacting to others projecting their admiration of themselves — or lack of it — on me, I need to ask myself, what am I projecting on them?


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