I had a dream that I totally went ballistic on a family member who suggested I needed to lose weight. So glad it was a dream.
Yet, my relief dissipated when I imagined what I would have done if that person, accidentally, said something so cruel. My reaction wasn’t that far from reality.
I tend to react defensively when I feel…
When I am brave enough to face the truth about myself, I can detach my emotions enough to learn from criticism instead of…
- Biting someone’s head off
- Criticizing back
- Getting depressed
- Expunging the challenger from my life
Prevents wasted rides
Listen to anyone, for any length of time, talk about their family, their life story, or what they are angry about, and you will discover enough crazy to last a lifetime. It’s not just politicians, our relatives, Isis, or our exes that are screwed up.
The only healthy way to navigate our whacked-out world is to look ourselves square in the eye and admit our part of the absurdity. Even though we have elaborate techniques for burying our own culpability, each of us owns a significant piece of this action. Bashing others for their part doesn’t make you any better. In fact, it makes you look crazier and makes me feel like getting the heck away from you as fast as I can.
I might start wearing these signs around my neck to remind both of us.
To condemn a liar is easy.
To admit our own lies is hard.
It always stumps me that social media is so full of indictments against liars. I hate lies too, yet, I know that not lying is something most of us have not mastered. I often wonder how so many people have conveniently forgotten their own lapses and gotten on their high horses about a habit that is so universal.
Humans (that includes me) have lied to avoid pain (prompted by some derivative of fear), unable to come up with a way around the pain without lying. Humans usually don’t set out to lie until the adrenaline starts pumping out a desperate plan of escape. Then, unfortunately, some will continue down the “socio-path,” addicted to the lie, unable to distinguish truth from lie, or to remember life without the lie.
Ironically, in order to spot, and avoid being victimized by, these pathological liars, we must simply recognize the “why” and humbly own this ugly side of our shared humanity.
Last week, I was unhappy about the gaps in my schedule. This week I am so thankful the gaps came at a fortunate time. How many times must I be reminded that my ability to determine what is good and what is bad is faulty? How many times must I look back and say, “Wow, if I had only known?” before I will learn to hold off on judgment or despair?
In this case, I would have saved myself lots of trouble, worry, frustration, and wasted time and energy.
A manager I know has a very inspiring poster on his door about leadership and accountability. It is obvious that he knows the value of these qualities.
It is also obvious that he avoids conflict.
Outside his door, the employees fester with discontent, confusion, drama, and unhealthy competition. Turnover is high. Energy is low.
He hopes that someday things will improve.
He doesn’t know that it is his move.
He also doesn’t know that once he sets clear boundaries, has the courage to quit making excuses, and to follow up tenaciously with coaching and development plans, his fear of conflict will go away.
Those things that we complain about, that keep us awake at night, that drain our energy during the day are actually in our hands to fix. Here is the formula:
- An apology
- Honest ownership of the dysfunction
- Agreement to start over
- Setting a when-things-fall-apart contingency
For the manager to his employees, it might sound like this:
“I owe you an apology. I have failed you by not communicating my expectations clearly and by failing to deal with things as they came up. Can we start over? Here is my specific wish-list. What is yours? Let’s talk again in a few days, see how we are doing, and recalibrate if necessary.”
Sometimes, the relationship will not work despite our best efforts, but we will never know if it could have been fixed if we don’t take responsibility for our part first.
- Are you assuming people know what you are unhappy about?
- Are you expecting those around you to read your mind or to interpret the world through your eyes?
- Have you been honest enough to state your desires with emotional detachment (minus the drama)?
- Have you remembered that your happiness is not dependent upon what others do but upon your own courage to move forward?
- Do you set contingencies in order to avoid indigestion and regression when things go sideways?
It is easy to complain about public figures or other difficult people being narcissistic, self-centered, selfish, or clueless and miss the same characteristics in myself…
When I can’t see past my own opinions
When I obsess about my own pain and difficulties
When I refuse to look outside my narrow boundaries
When I seek to eliminate my own pain at the expense of another’s
When I am jealous of someone else’s life.
I am not saying that very harmful people with narcissistic disorder do not exist. I am saying that if I truly want to help matters, or if I want to shun or expose narcissistic behaviors, starting with myself is the only guarantee that I won’t become “them” in the process.
When I am angry or irritated with someone, the last thing I am thinking about is partnering. Rather, I am thinking about unleashing my dissatisfaction (either aggressively or passive-aggressively) upon whoever is causing me pain.
Yet, as soon as I employ any adversarial approach, the distance to my goal lengthens, walls go up, things get complicated, and the other party’s retaliation seems justifiable to them.
When I have successfully exited this brand of chaos, it has been by using a non-intuitive approach:
- Stepping away from the pain long enough to have healthy, emotional detachment
- Surrendering my own agenda long enough to understand the other party’s concerns
- Only moving ahead when I clearly see a way to partner; where everyone feels like a winner
(As Maya Angelou reminded us, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”)
When someone offends us, we can…
- get snooty
- be indignant
- offend back
- whine, growl, or make lots of noise about it
Or, we can keep it in perspective, keep our ego out of it, and remember…
- we have also offended
- there are bigger things going on in the world
- the world needs big people who won’t make big deals about small stuff
- smart people stop drama dead in its tracks