Posts Tagged ‘overreacting’

How to break the cycle of frustration

Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

As experts in conflict resolution and communication, you might think we notice conflict everywhere we go. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

The more we share this work and listen to the experience of our workshop participants, the more we understand that it’s really only a fraction of our interactions that cause us difficulties. The challenge is to stop those few difficult people from having a massive impact on our lives.

This scenario is one we’ve heard many times in different forms from participants in our workshops; see if you can relate.

Think of the most annoying person you know

Let’s call him John from the marketing department. He has a way of winding you up quickly and efficiently, and your colleagues agree that he is extremely annoying. This morning you had a run in with him that felt like the final straw.

But if you’re really honest, you have also have fallen into a pattern every time you encounter John. You anticipate his behaviour and, whatever he does, you heap your feelings and assumptions onto the already large pile that you have built up around John’s actions. It could be that he only has to look at you the ‘wrong way’ to start you off.

Take John’s actions today – at this morning's meeting – in isolation. Maybe he spoke a little loudly and interrupted you whilst you were speaking. If he had been a total stranger, would you have felt that tight, familiar knot of irritation so quickly in the pit of your stomach? Would you have cut off his conversation as swiftly as you did today?

What else might explain their actions?

What if you found out that John's annoying ways were driven by a misguided attempt to impress you because in fact he is intimidated by you?

Or that he has an anxiety disorder and acts the way he does to compensate for his panicky feelings?

If you can break down the ‘thing’ that you have created around John’s behaviour with your assumptions and shared history, you will find that you are able to be your normal, at ease, un-triggered self much faster.

The lens through which we view behaviour changes what we see

When we are in conflict with someone, whether at work or in our personal lives, it is very easy (and very common) to assume that all the unreasonable behaviour comes from them and we are the innocent victims of their irritating ways.

no-cycling-164123_640As we encounter the other person and their mannerisms again and again, we create mental threads of the things they do and say that wind us up. We weave stories and assumptions around these until we have made something quite substantial.

However, this ‘thing’ that we create is more of our making than the other person’s and affects the way that we behave when around them, often making the problem worse.

It's a cycle of frustration that gets in the way of us feeling at ease.

Finding ease with conflict

One of the ways to break the cycle of frustration is to ask yourself 'what else could this mean?' (the 'this' being the thing they say or do that bothers you). When we find someone especially challenging, we often make the meaning very personal to us.

We often believe the other person is doing things deliberately to annoy or antagonise us and we have tons of evidence to prove ourselves right.

The question is - would you rather stay being 'right' and harbouring all this malaise, or would you rather take your power back and be in control of how you are feeling and behaving around this person, no matter what they do?

Taking a different perspective

Another way is to imagine that a person you really like did the thing that this person does that bothers you so much. Consider how you would handle them.

Oftentimes we find that we apply very different rules to different people - it would be okay if x did that thing but if y does it, we are all over them like a rash!

Each time we challenge our own perceptions about someone's behaviour and consider them through a new lens, we are weakening the hold this person has over us and this gives us the power to break the cycle, and get back to being at ease - in other words, being our normal, un-triggered self.

You'll be amazed at how much easier life is when you are living it at ease and not beholden to other people's behaviour.

Understanding why we get frustrated

On the War to Peace® workshop, we explore this cycle using a tool called the Spiral of Disempowerment™ (you can download it here) which illustrates this pattern well.

Person A acts or speaks in a certain way, which is then perceived by Person B as being annoying or rude, Person B then acts or speaks to Person A differently, causing Person B to perceive Person A in a negative light, affecting their thoughts and behaviour… and so it goes on in a cycle of disempowerment and discontentment.

The good news is that cycles like these can be broken. In this case, the very first step is to recognise the pattern and to focus on changing the part that's in our control.

Over to you

In what ways can you recognise your own role in the Spiral of Disempowerment™? What could you do to break the cycle?

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

If you would benefit from breaking the cycle, our next open-access War to Peace® workshop is on 13 July. Click here to find out more and book your place - only 4 spaces remain at the time of writing.

P.S. pass it on!

If you know someone who might find this article helpful, do let them know. You can share it by using one of the buttons below.

 

 

Feeling frustrated with someone's behaviour at work? Here's how to break the cycle and find peace, from @halcyonglobal

 

 

 

Photo via Pixabay

When one person lets down the team

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

I loved my team - we were dedicated, high performing, go-getting and made up of the most intelligent, action-taking, committed individuals I could have wished for.

Except for Martin. Team meeting - what to do when one person lets down the team?

Martin was the exact opposite. Every annoying habit you could conceive, he had. From turning up late, to repeatedly promising he’d do things and then not delivering, he was the one bad egg in the team of my dreams.

As his line manager, the stress of trying to shift his behavior was keeping me up at night. I felt like I’d tried everything: I’d check his understanding of his tasks and ask him to set his own deadlines, I’d ask him why he hadn’t delivered to his own deadline and what support he needed, I even tried to show an interest in him and his home life to see if there was something at home that was troubling him. Then I tried being tough, setting non-negotiable deadlines and threatening disciplinary action, which eventually was the process that was entered into. Martin was impossible, and in the end I asked my boss to remove him from my team and give us his entire workload, as I concluded that it would be easier to take on all of his responsibilities than the amount of time, effort and frustration managing him was costing me.

We breathed a collective sigh of relief when Martin exited our team and moved into another department. Finally, we could be high-performing once more, albeit feeling somewhat resentful of all the extra work we had to do under already pressurised conditions.

The unexpected twist

Several months later, I met someone who was now working with Martin. I was ready to commiserate when they told me he’d been promoted! I was floored. This incompetent, irritating, un-manageable person... promoted... how had he fooled them? My team were incredulous when I told them, it’s not as though we’d forgotten about Martin - his name had become a euphemism for non-delivery. But it bothered me nonetheless...

Several years later, I had changed roles a good few times in the organisation and was again fortunate enough to be heading a high performing team. Once more, we had uncompromising deadlines and pulled regular all-nighters to meet them. This time it was Amy who was the thorn in our side. Clearly intelligent, her role was essential to our success, as she was responsible for updating our ever changing project plans and PowerPoint presentations to the board. However, she made it known to us on a daily basis that she felt this task was way beneath her capabilities and frequently suggested that she had much better ways of doing things. I’d brace myself before every encounter with Amy, knowing that she was going to roll her eyes, highlight the inadequacies of our approach, complain and would input the data through deep sighs, tutting and a slowly shaking head.

Was this going to be Martingate all over again…?

A new approach to conflict

Amy bothered me. On the one hand, I’d feel perfectly justified in telling her to get on with it - it was her job after all and we were all under immense pressure, often not agreeing with the decisions made above our heads and having to do work that didn’t exactly satisfy us either a lot of the time. On the other hand, how many times in my career had I been shut down and told to JFDI (just do it) when I had great ideas about doing things differently? It wasn’t exactly motivating and it would be easy to see how this could escalate into full blown war if I wasn’t careful. But then she did have a poor attitude that was in real danger of bringing down the team, so it wasn’t as though I could leave things as they were, so what could I do?

Often at the times when urgent action seems necessary, it’s a good indicator for us to pause and reflect. With the Martin experience still ringing in my ears years later - and all the time and stress that it had cost me - I decided to invest some time in contemplating Amy’s situation and how I’d want to be viewing this in years to come. I concluded very quickly that whilst she clearly wasn’t a good fit for our team and it would be easy to make her wrong (just as I had with Martin), this wasn’t going to solve our issue, any more than imploring her to just do her job would.

When I looked at the situation from Amy’s point of view, I could see why she was frustrated and that some aspects of the role were beneath her razor-sharp intellect. I could also see that there were other departments in the organisation that could use someone with her desire for process improvement. That said, with my experience of her attitude, I didn’t feel I could wholly recommend her, but that was part of a conversation I could now have with her.

Speaking honestly

Instead of wasting weeks in conflict, trying to get her to change her behavior and venting to anyone who’d listen about how she was making life a misery, a much more honest conversation ensued with her than ever it did with Martin. I was able to tell her frankly why she wasn’t a fit for our team – and the kind of position I thought she’d be better suited to. I also explained that even though I understood her frustration, her attitude didn’t leave me feeling able to fully recommend her, but I did want her to succeed and shared the potential I saw in her.

Key to this dialogue was getting into a frame of mind that was empathetic to Amy’s situation. Imagine how she might have experienced being on the receiving end of the same words from someone who felt angry and aggrieved? Instead, together we were able to mutually agree a plan for her to move on and, funnily enough, her attitude in her remaining weeks with us was considerably better, and she even helped source her replacement!

Moving out of the vicious circle

What is less important in the War to Peace® methodology is the action we take. What’s far more important is the way in which we take the action, in other words, how we are being. So, in this case, the action taken was to remove an under-performer from the team. In the first case, it cost dearly and there was bad feeling for everyone involved. It could have been exactly the same in the second case had it not been for a change of attitude - mine not theirs.

I can only imagine how Martin feels about his time with and exiting our team. And I know how Amy feels about hers, because it turns out it was the first time she had experienced such frank feedback and she later shared the positive impact it had on her.

I am sure you’ll be able to think back to similar examples in your life. Times when you’ve managed to have what seemed like difficult conversations – in work or at home – with grace and aplomb. And others when you wish you could turn back time and do it all differently. I’m willing to bet it was your own attitude that made the difference.

Next time you find yourself facing a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario ask yourself what viewing the situation from your own narrow perspective is costing you (I know you feel justified because it’s affecting other people too, but it’s still costing you dearly to focus on this). You may be surprised at how imagining yourself on the receiving end of you may lead you to a change of heart - and a solution that you couldn’t otherwise see.

Healthy boundaries, easy change

If you ever find yourself frustrated by colleagues, team or family members, or just want to be able to handle challenging conversations without being a pushover or sacrificing your boundaries, then War to Peace® is for you. In our one-day, practical workshop you’ll experience our award-winning methodology for yourself and apply it to a real-life challenge that’s coming up for you right now.

Our first open access workshop with spaces available is on March 2nd. Click here to get your spot, and move into Spring with your biggest time-suck taken care of. (Because if you have a Martin or Amy on in your life right now, or find yourself landed with one in future, all the productivity hacks in the world won’t give you back your time or your sanity).

And to be the first to hear about our new workshop dates, sign up for our monthly blog posts containing tips and strategies for your relationship challenges.

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If you know someone who might find this article helpful, let them know. Share it by using one of the buttons below.

 

 

What to do when one person lets down the team – and doing nothing's not an option. A true story from @halcyconglobal

 

 

 

Photo via Unsplash

Are you writing your own Christmas movie?

Friday, December 15th, 2017

Picture the scene, as though it was the start of a film.

Christmas tree: Are you dreading the family christmas?Christmas music rings out as the camera swoops down snow-covered streets, decorated with bright colours. And as the opening credits fade, we peer in through one of the well-lit windows and into a familiar scene. The family round the table, with everyone there: parents, grown up children, teenagers and maybe even little ones running around.

There’s no mistaking the time of year – it’s holiday season once again, and all around, families gather for their annual get together. You’ll most probably be attending a social occasion of some kind yourself during the coming weeks, and how do you feel about it?

Be honest. Are you excited? Happy?

Or is it more like dread at the thought of yet another family fiasco replaying itself once more?

Holidays can be hard

Taking time off to spend with family sounds like it should be so idyllic. But as the holidays approach, we often find ourselves cranking up a gear, just when our bodies are feeling the need to slow down.

So we often arrive at the big events with our families tired and run down, maybe a little bit stressed, and almost always anticipating what’s about to unfold. After all, the collision of family is what tends to make the day so memorable.

Most of us could probably rattle off an account of the past five or so Christmasses – maybe there was an argument, an unexpected disaster, or a memorably wonderful time.

There’s not many other days of the year that are repeatedly so memorable.

All in all, it’s the perfect recipe for a whole lot of conflict – spoken or suppressed – to unfold. And the truth is, we can’t change anything about how other people show up to it. What we can look at is our own reaction to what takes place.

We create our reality

A great place to start is by examining the assumptions and expectations we bring before things start.

One of the ways we can be at War with the people around us involves us gathering evidence to support our take on things, and this is something that often comes up at Christmas. It’s almost as though we have a script already written – a movie of What Christmas is Like that we’re running in our heads.

Within this framework, we can actively see those around us behaving exactly as we knew they would. Sure enough, you start to accumulate evidence: there’s your bossy aunt, your selfish father, your tactless brother-in-law. All showing up and playing their roles, exactly as you expect them to.

But if this were a movie, where would we place ourselves? Quite often it’s not as a character in the film, or at least not one causing any of the issues. We think of ourselves as being the neutral party. Or, if pushed, we find justifiable reasons for why we revert to certain behaviours. When your mother’s being her usual controlling self, it’s only natural that you slip back into defensive teenager mode.

We just can’t help it when we’re around them!

Flipping the script around

Now, it’s absolutely possible that your family might be composed of people who are difficult to be around. We’re not saying that your reading of the situation is wrong.

But choose one person you find especially challenging, and try for a moment imagining that you’re in their shoes.

How might they be feeling about the coming season? What ruts do they wish they could escape from? And how might you be unconsciously feeding into them?

Perhaps being around a mum who stifles you has you feeling sullen and resentful. You know that you end up speaking less and feeling less enthusiastic when she’s around.

But from her side, your reticence makes you seem quiet. She goes into full-on cajoling mode, to try to encourage you to take part. And so the cycle repeats itself.

Most of us are really good at identifying family dynamics and how they play out. We’re not always so gifted at seeing how we too play our part in creating those dynamics.

This year, instead of expecting a certain script to play out, why not see if you can remain open to what “film” is about to be shown. Who are the characters going to be? What are they like, and how do they show that? How are you "being" and what character are you playing, in turn?

You might find something you weren’t expecting opens up.

Time for a real change?

Our workshops are really effective in the workplace; the feedback that we get from leaders and managers tells us War to Peace® has a huge impact on their results. And the reality is, what holds us back most in our lives is very often our longstanding relationships with those around us. It’s interacting with our parents, siblings and children that can be the sources of our deepest pain and anger, and finding a way to navigate them can be what makes the difference to every other aspect of our worlds.

If you’re interested in learning the tools you need to resolve conflicts with ease in any area of your life, the first open access workshop of 2018 is on 2 March 2018, and we currently have just 10 spaces left. Click here to find out more and book your place.

And to be the first to hear about our new workshop dates, sign up for our monthly blog posts containing tips and strategies for your relationship challenges.

P.S. pass it on!

If you know someone who might find this article helpful, let them know. Share it by using one of the buttons below.

 

 

One Christmas movie to avoid in 2017, from @halcyonglobal (Dreading the family Christmas? This is for you)

 

 

 

Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

The hidden block to effective teams

Monday, September 25th, 2017

A team of cyclists - but how can you build effective teams?As a team leader, there are lots of things you can do to increase the performance of the people you manage. For example, if you want to improve your results you might start with making sure that everyone is 100% clear on your shared goals and objectives, so their energy is being directed to the same place.

You could look at how your team interact with each other. Boost connection, maybe by adding in informal meetings or group activities, to see if you can develop stronger bonds.

A third approach would be to focus on the individual skill levels of your team, with an aim of increasing each person's competence so that collectively, they perform better.

Ideas like this tend to be the focus of a lot of advice around building effective teams, and for good reason: All of these are great strategies.

But even when you've looked at each of these behaviours, it's common to feel like your team’s missing its “edge”.

Effective teams aren't built by behaviour alone

If you’ve managed people for any length of time you’ll almost certainly have come across this issue, even though it’s something that’s rarely discussed in leadership literature. Teams that look like they're doing everything 'right', and yet still aren't able to get past a certain level of performance.

  • It’s the team member who's irritable and impatient – because his marriage is breaking up, and he doesn’t know where to turn.
  • The individual who’s distracted and barely able to concentrate, because their intractable issues with their noisy neighbours are keeping them up at night.
  • The high flier who hasn't got their "mojo" back since a family bereavement brought conflict between their siblings that doesn't seem like it'll ever get resolved.

These scenarios can be difficult to tackle, because they're not really about how our people behave at work. We might not have the full picture about what's going on, and it's certainly not our place to ask. And even when we do have some of the facts, as leaders, these “personal issues” can feel as though they fall outside our remit. We might decide they're matters for HR, or facts of life that can’t be changed.

But the truth is, all the strategy in the world won’t help shift your results when your team members are not showing up in a way that's helpful to work.

Conflict makes most of us miserable, and miserable employees are uniquely ineffective.

How to address issues that go beyond the working day

In a competitive and complex marketplace, keeping home and work separate isn’t as simple as taking off your jacket at the end of the day. Getting great results means bringing your whole self to the table; being able to be flexible, adaptable and empathetic to others. Holding firm boundaries, and knowing how to negotiate and say no without sacrificing important relationships.

So often, the “unrelated” personal issues of our teams point to deeper challenges in how they’re able to show up. (The Spiral of Disempowerment™ shows how our trickiest relationships can become our greatest teachers). However well-hidden they might seem, these issues will almost certainly impact their performance.

So what’s the solution when it comes to building an effective team?

Let’s be clear: You’re certainly not expected to solve all of your team’s problems. If you’re thinking that their marriages, family relationships and community conflicts are none of your business, you’d be right. And it's also important to remember that these issues are a completely normal part of all of our lives. Everyone experiences conflict from time to time, and there's nothing we can do to stop that from happening.

What it might be helpful to consider is how you can support your team to react differently to those issues, in a way that can help them with any relationship they're in, whether at work or in their personal lives.

This is where War to Peace® comes in. It’s an experience that isn't so much about changing what you do (the way that a new communication technique or a different goal setting strategy might have an impact) as looking at the underlying way we show up. The behaviour changes flow from the deeper shift in whether we're living in a way that's at War or at Peace.

When we’re at Peace, we’re naturally more interested and helpful towards others, which invites the same behaviour to come back in return. And it's not about learning how to say certain things, or 'acting' a certain way  - you can’t fake being at Peace! One of the key differences about the approach is that we’re not doing it for other people. Instead, it allows us to be (effortlessly) the best version of ourselves no matter how someone else is behaving. That means we’re able to stop giving our power away and waiting for others to change, and start taking control of how we're being.

Can you see how this could have a more lasting impact on your team's results than trying to change their 'surface' activities and behaviours? How once you have a competent team in place, what they're doing at work might become less important than how they're doing it.

Over to you

    • Have you experienced this hidden block come up with people you manage?
    • How might your current team see better results with a whole-person focus on their communication styles?

Leave a comment below letting us know your thoughts.

War to Peace® workshops 2017-8

Our upcoming open-access October 2017 workshop is now fully booked (though if you’re keen for a place, feel free to join the waiting list in case of any last-minute changes).

Our recent War to Peace® workshops have all sold out well in advance, and so we're delighted to let you know that we we will now be running 4 open access workshops in 2018. The first of these will fall on on 2 March 2018, and you can click here to find out more and book your place.

If you don’t want to wait that long, it's possible to organise an in-house workshop for you and your team; simply click here to get in touch or call us on +44 (0) 20 8191 7072 and let us know what you're looking for. To be the first to hear about our new workshop dates, sign up for our once per month blogs posts containing tips and strategies for your relationship challenges.

P.S. pass it on!

If you know a leader who might find this article helpful, please share it by using one of the buttons below.

 

 

Manage teams? You might not have considered this hidden block to improving results, from @halcyonglobal

 

 

 

Photo by James Thomas on Unsplash

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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