If you don’t have room to fail, you don’t have room to grow.
As I wrote in previous posts, change is difficult.
In fact, the #1 question I get from clients is: how can I change? When asking that question, clients hope I have some clear-cut formula they can follow.
There is no formula, but there is a process for change and it’s summed-up in five words:
My client, Bob, wants to become more comfortable when speaking assertively. His great challenge has been to resist the power of his debilitating fear of, “I don’t want to upset them.”
Recently, Bob had an unsettling encounter with a woman in HR. He casually mentioned something he did in his personal life that led to his children being disappointed. The woman went nuclear, accusing him of being an irresponsible parent. She did this with co-workers looking on.
Without going into details, I can say that what Bob did was ill-advised, but it did not come close to being irresponsible.
That night he was terribly upset – not with the HR woman, but with himself – he questioned whether he was a good father.
Next day, he reached out to the woman, but she adamantly refused to speak with him.
A week went by and he insisted she hear him out. He apologized for upsetting her and as he spoke, he noticed the anger was draining from her.
She revealed that her dog has brain cancer and she’s been on edge. She’s single, has no children and the dog is her only companion.
Bob offered sympathy and told her if she ever needed to talk with someone, she could turn to him.
Bob works in a company that is beyond toxic. He’s battered from various corners and his job is in jeopardy. He’s made enemies by speaking truth to incompetence. He’s striven mightily to learn how to assert himself in his dealings with co-workers who are lethal in their passive-aggressive tactics.
He came to me, though, feeling confused and frustrated. He felt he failed himself in his encounter with this woman.
I reassured Bob that he didn’t fail himself. He did make what I thought were some missteps – and that’s okay because there’s a lot that Bob did right:
- He didn’t engage her in the heat of the moment.
- He extracted himself from her tirade.
- He didn’t let the incident slide.
- He sought closure.
- He didn’t attack her and sought dialogue.
Bob had good instincts as he wanted to assertively, honestly deal with an unpleasant encounter.
Old habits, though, die hard. And some of what he did was not in his best interest:
- He repeatedly told me that she had hurt his feelings. Why? This woman clearly was unhinged and behaved in an inappropriate way. Why let her hurt him?
- He didn’t allow himself to feel anger. Bob believes he needs to control his emotions; but, in doing that he ignores what he’s feeling.
- He questioned his own abilities as a dad. In doing so, he gave power to this woman. Why should a verbally abusive person have the right to assess his parenting skills?
- While his instincts were spot on in going to clear the air with her, he approached her from the position that he had done something wrong. He apologized, but she did not. She explained the situation with her dog, but did not take responsibility for her actions.
- Bob is a good person. While his offer to listen to her laments about her dog is generous, it’s not to his advantage. The company is toxic. This woman has shown herself to be emotionally volatile. He’s not paid to be her friend and there’s not been enough history for a friendship at this time.
So, what does this all mean?
Bob is engaged in the tough process of expanding his communication skills set. And that’s what he’s been doing in his work with me.
Bob’s determined; he has fire in the belly.
He’s willing to practice different communication techniques.
As a result, he’s experienced the messiness of learning. He makes mistakes; he’s tempted to throw in the towel. But, he’s sticking with it.
In our coaching sessions, he reflects on what he’s doing. This is key and it’s one of the advantages to having a coach.
Bob takes all this and with keener insight repeats the process.
I’m convinced that this is what the business of confidence is all about!
Do you want to break through the negative thinking that is preventing you from being influential and heard?
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