Posts Tagged ‘defensiveness’

Is it you or is it them?

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

Alison had experienced some tough office politics a few years ago and came to a recent War to Peace® workshop feeling very stressed. She had left that troublesome organisation but wasn't faring much better in her current company. She was now in her second role and explained that she had the constant worry that people were thinking the worst of her and talking about her behind her back. This made her edgy and defensive, which affected both her relationships and her productivity at work, thus often making her fear become a reality.

During the workshop, Alison described a recent situation at work. She explained that there has been an error in the numbers she'd been given to present at a recent meeting with senior members of staff. It was a minor mistake, she said, and easily rectified, but Alison couldn’t shake the worry that her colleagues thought her incompetent and she remained furious with the person who had made the error, even though she herself felt this was an overreaction.

When she saw three of her colleagues talking in hushed tones a little later, she became convinced that they were talking about her and she felt the familiar feelings of dread settle on her, accompanied by her defensive, reactive behaviour.

Perhaps it's nothing to do with you...

Alison explained that she often found herself reliving work incidents in her mind and re-experiencing the associated emotions of stress, shame and anger. The incident with the inaccurate figures and the subsequent worry was just an example of something that was happening on a very regular basis and bringing Alison into a mire of negativity.

Inspired by a question in the Pathway to Peace exercise at the workshop, Alison began considering the possibility that what people were doing and saying had nothing to do with her. This helped her to try something new. Each time she found herself interpreting a colleague’s perceived mood as having something to do with her, she would write a list of all the other reasons she could think of as to what else could be going on for them. For example, the staff members talking in a whisper could have been one of them sharing a personal problem, hand-325321_640talking about an illicit affair one of them was having or discussing a delicate health matter instead of talking about Alison’s presentation. The boss frowning this morning may have had more to do with the sun being in his eyes or the fact he had a headache than with the quality of Alison’s work.

By listing the many reasons that her workmates might be reacting the way they appeared to be, Alison lifted the heavy burden she'd been carrying on her shoulders. It also helped her to become less self-absorbed and consider that her colleagues may also find work challenging at times. This gave her greater capacity to focus on what she could do to help them and, at the same time, feel much less edgy and defensive. As a result, not only did her mood lighten considerably at work, her relationships with her colleagues become much more lighthearted and easier to deal with, meaning she was far more able to be the productive and competent manager she had always wanted to be.

Over to you

  • Could you be unfairly blaming yourself or others for what you perceive people to be thinking or doing?
  • What other reasons could they have to behave in that way?
  • Consider how these other possibilities could change your response to a more helpful one.

Do you know someone who could benefit from War to Peace®?

If you know someone who would benefit from recognising some alternative reasons for other people's reactions, our next open-access War to Peace® workshop is on 3 March 2017 and we have just three spaces leftTo book your place, click here.

 

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photo credit: CEBImagery.com via photopin cc