The anticipation of getting to see family or friends can lead to setting unrealistic expectations for the people in our lives. I constantly remind myself to manage expectations and set realistic benchmarks for my relationships. Time off over the holidays allowed me to reconnect with my friends and extended family. Similar to communication at work, how we say things and what we mean can often be misinterpreted.
My youngest son is often the wisest among us. He told me to stop reacting with a negative response because this just escalates a tense situation. His words were simple: “if someone’s being mean, don’t be mean back; turn to them and say you are being mean, and when you can be nice, I’m willing to engage.”
I found it ironic that my son reminded me of something I used to do when he was little. I was exhausted from arguing with him about picking up his clothes are helping clean up after dinner. Everything was a debate.
At my wit’s end, I Googled “Kid Whisperer.” There was one for dogs; why wouldn’t there be one for kids?! Sure enough, I found an educator who called himself the Kid Whisperer. Scott Ervin blogged on the topic and used many materials from the Love and Logic Institute. They became my go-to place for ideas.
TouchPoint: Can you imagine this in the office, professionals being “mean”?! Someone in a meeting cuts you off or speaks over you; instead of being quiet or responding with an attitude, be firm and calm and keep repeating your message until it’s heard, “Can I continue?”
Social interactions at work can resemble high school norms. Workers feel underappreciated, so they make passive-aggressive comments, are abrupt in their responses, and generally disengage from the community. A project needs a high degree of collaboration, and team members don’t respond to emails or come to meetings. These are signals. But what do the messages mean? How can the actions be interpreted?
The way we present ourselves in the world is essential. How we show up matters. From our words and expressions to the manners we use to engage, our attitude signals to others how to approach us (or not),
Focusing on hurt feelings doesn’t allow for any growth. Negative behaviors and actions often come from a place of hurt. Someone acts out because they want attention. A colleague drops the ball on a deadline because a manager (seems to) favors the new hire.
The root cause of aggressive behavior from a colleague is likely a response to feeling uneasy, not who they are as a person.
It’s safe to say that acting like a child at work is not okay. Micro-aggressions are bound to backfire in the end. Instead, hone self-reflective skills and use them to identify when something is not going smoothly. Think about how you can change situational dynamics by changing yourself. Improve the energy in a room with a proactive attitude and low tolerance for bad attitudes or BS.
When things are rough with family or in the office, consider a realistic solution and get feedback. I’m an eternal optimist (although these last several years have been exhausting). I go into situations expecting the best, use positive language, and encourage proactive behaviors. I usually get a response that is upbeat, productive, and kind. Entering a situation with judgment or discernment might be too heavy-handed as an approach, even if there is cause for critique.
A lousy attitude begets a negative response, or as the saying goes, “you get more flies with honey than vinegar.”
When people are not at their best, affirmative guidance will help them get back to a sense of confidence and positivity. Ultimately you want to bring out the best in people, even if that first means finding the best way to be yourself.
So when faced with someone who interrupts or talks over you, respond diplomatically, e.g., “let’s pause for a moment; being louder isn’t being better.” If a colleague or manager likes to hog all the glory, remind them gently of the “great joint effort.” Hold your own in the new year, be firm, and act confidently (or fake it until you are). A clear and neutral tone sets boundaries for those who need them and puts others at ease to speak up. Remember, no one is perfect; mistakes and arguments happen. It is not a reflection of who we are at our core.
- Check your attitude first
- Assertively (but kindly) call out unwelcome behavior.
- Be firm about your expectations and boundaries
- Engage with kindness. Be compassionate
Use these tips the next time you face a bully or someone’s bad day gets projected onto you. The results might surprise you!