Stop, think, respond

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Ever find yourself reacting to a person, situation, place, rather than responding? I sure do. Some people just push my buttons and get my back up straight away. Sometimes I’m not so good at taking feedback so I’ll jump straight in to protection/blame mode. Sometimes I’ll feel uncomfortable in a space and I’ll just want to run and get the hell out of there regardless of the reason I’m there in the first place.

When I was working in a corporate environment I often had to give performance appraisals. I used to always find it perplexing that people would be so scared of this process and not find it an opportunity to receive praise, learn and plan their own development with the support of a manager. However, when it came to my own appraisal I’d go in feeling confident but as soon as I was provided with constructive criticism I’d get very defensive and try to excuse myself out of whatever issue was brought to light. This was not a good look. It also provided me with no opportunity to listen or learn because I was so focused on my reaction.

I think we often find ourselves reacting to things without thinking about the consequences. We just go straight in to fight or flight response rather than considering the situation with a level head and considering our response to ensure a good outcome. I had a client the other day talk about how whenever her partner raises a particular topic she just goes straight in to protection mode, becoming defensive and trying to push him away. Clearly the result of this type of reaction will not lead to a sensible considered discussion. It does not provide the other party with an opportunity to really explain and express themselves and it just makes us uptight and angry when perhaps the alternative is not so bad.

My experience in life and business has really shown me that if we can take a step back, identify our feelings and respond appropriately then we can build better relationships, display our emotional intelligence and show others that there are better ways to handle ‘potential’ conflict. I say potential because really if we just react we will find that an agreed outcome is difficult to achieve. If we learn to gain awareness around our reactions and start responding to what happens then there is a far less likely chance of conflict.

So now when I’m provided with feedback I try to take a different approach. I allow the person to finish what they are saying; I hear them out and try to understand things from their perspective. This gives me all the information I need to know and I can then respond appropriately. This isn’t to say that sometimes we don’t need to protect ourselves but by allowing the time to assess and process we remove the urge to try to control and direct things in our own favour. This provides an opportunity for learning as well as connecting with the other person involved. It shows respect to everyone and allows ideas to evolve harmoniously and at the right pace.

If you want more information on how Make Hay coaching can help you gain greater awareness and learn to manage your emotions then check out my website http://www.makehay.com.au.

It’s nice to be nice

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Make Hay Coaching

I went on a date last week. This gentleman had been pursuing me for a couple of weeks, messaging every day, so I agreed to meet him for drinks and dinner. We enjoyed a bottle of wine in a great city venue, and whilst he really wasn’t my type, he was a nice guy (so I thought) and I figured I might as well continue the date on to dinner. We discussed the venue of choice, were about to go and he said he’d just fix up the bill and go to the loo which was on a different floor.

He never came back. Yes, just like in the movies!

After 15 minutes I sent him a text to make sure he was ok and to ask if he’d done a runner on me. No response. I waited another 15 minutes and by that time was pretty sure he wasn’t returning. Various scenarios floated through my head, maybe he had an ‘accident’ on the way to the loo? Maybe he had been mugged on his way? Maybe he got his bits caught in his zipper? Maybe he had a call and had to dash off? Maybe he got a better offer? Maybe he was (heaven forbid) lying on the floor somewhere close to death? I also had visions of him climbing out the toilet window to escape. As he was a big guy and the toilet was on the third floor, this image at least kept me entertained as I waited.

I decided to leave, and later I felt bad. I thought ‘what if something did happen to him?’ He didn’t return my text at all, and I thought surely he hadn’t done a runner? There were no signs, he was the one who suggested dinner and anyway, who does that???

So I did some research the next day, I put my investigating skills to work, just to make sure he was still alive. Turns out he was. I also suspect that of the possible scenarios, the better offer was the winner.

I couldn’t believe that he had chosen such a gutless and rude exit; as a mature man you should be able to have a difficult conversation. Difficult conversations are so called because they are ‘difficult’, but by ignoring the situation we only do the other party (and ourselves) a disservice. Until we can face these situations we will always have that slow burning anxiety in our belly because things won’t change and we might get caught out. And really, let’s face it, its just good manners!

So I’m starting a manners movement, I’m encouraging others to act with respect and remember one of life’s important lessons ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’.

So next time you have to reject someone, say no to a colleague or family member, or even performance manage a staff member, do so with speed, honesty and integrity. Don’t just wait for the problem to go away to save yourself the pain, because it probably won’t! Set the example, act with courage and be kind. Support others to do the same, make sure they see all perspectives and have the skills and courage necessary to face challenging discussions and situations with empathy and tact. If we all acted with good manners and respect the world would be a better place to live. After all, as my dear friend would say, ‘its nice to be nice’.

NB. The date wasn’t a total loss, sure I wasted some time, but he did pay the bill so I got few nice drinks amongst some amazing city views and a new blog post out of it!

To learn more about how Make Hay coaching can help you build courage and resilience, visit me at makehay.com.au.

How to stop sweating the small stuff

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shit could be worse

“I’ve lost everything!”

These were the words I was greeted by late one Saturday night as I opened the front door to my distressed flatmate.  “What do you mean?” I asked. She repeated, “I’ve lost EVERYTHING!”

Now I’ll let you in on a secret, she was a bit tipsy, so I assumed there was some overreaction going on.  I could see that she was still fully dressed so she hadn’t lost her clothes, she found her way home so I assumed she hadn’t lost her mind, but it was clear that she had obviously lost her keys.

I brought her inside and tried to get to the bottom of the situation.  Turns out she’d lost her bag.  In her bag were her keys, her phone and a small money purse, technically not ‘everything’. Fortunately I was able to work through this with her, help her realise the real scale of the problem and send her off to bed with a big glass of water. It did, however, get me thinking.  Here was a girl who had previously lost many possessions in a house fire, ended a relationship whilst travelling in a foreign country with only her ‘now ex’ partner and spent large amounts of time with no income whilst looking for work when returning back to Australia.  A phone, a few bucks and some keys seemed extremely minimal by comparison.

Clearly the few wines she had consumed provided an exaggerated response, and most of us are truly addicted to our phones these days so I can somewhat sympathise, however in the grand scheme of things my flatmate had just experienced a slightly annoying event requiring a little bit of admin the next day.

By focusing on what she had lost rather than how to deal with it, my flatmate caused herself a lot of unnecessary stress. The inability to deal with small, every day, negative events not only creates this stress but it can also lead to trouble.  Generally this is how awful things like road rage come about, a small annoyance that gets blown out of proportion and handled badly. But its good to know that whatever the circumstances when we suffer loss, or disappointment, or frustration, we do have the ability to deal with it.

Losing our attachment to small things (e.g. house keys) better equips us to deal with the situation and save ourselves a whole lot of pain. By putting things in perspective we can tune in to our previous experience, and personal resilience, and realise that we will be able to get past whatever roadblock has appeared. Further, research shows that those who turn their focus from the small negative events to the brief, joyful moments tend to be happier.  Happy people understand that there are ups and downs in life but focus on what goes right rather than what goes wrong, building greater resilience and contentment. So next time you loose your keys why not spend some time sitting on your doorstep, reflecting on all the good things in your life while you wait for the locksmith to arrive.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, my flatmate’s bag was located with all items in tact. Seems she’d just left it on a shelf while she was busting out some moves on the dance floor. Next time, perhaps, a little less wine…