In corporate and office environments we often size people up based on professionalism and forget, a human being exists underneath that suit. We have human reactions.
Some of us are better at suppressing them. Others are able to internally assess and move through them quickly, maintaining mental stability and focus. Still others, at varying degrees of intensity, duration, or frequency, give way to their emotional reactions to work situations.
In 15 years as a professional, I have had all of these reactions and have witnessed colleagues – from front-line staff to executive leadership – cycle through them. On rare occasions, I met someone who appeared stoic, but this was often accompanied by a lower level of engagement and collaboration. A big wall existed between them and nearly everyone else, leaving little room for the kind of connection, vulnerability and conversation that leads to great innovation.
I am an emotional person by nature, and a sensitive person. Many in my family have argued I am too sensitive at times. Others have said it is a gift and I can often feel other people’s feelings and bring awareness and healing to difficult situations. Either way, it presents challenges and opportunities in my life as a VP.
One opportunity is the ability to quickly assess and change approaches and communication styles based on others’ needs, in order to reach the desired outcome. A challenge is having a difficult time letting go in the inevitable moments when someone simply doesn’t like me.
Wherever you fall on the spectrum, Dr. Marcia Reynolds, Psy.D., suggests you recognize your reaction. She questions, “Do you feel fear in your chest, betrayal in your heart, anger in your shoulders, gut or head, or humiliation in the pit of your stomach?” She reminds us, “Your brain works very hard to keep you safe, so it will judge a situation as threatening if there is any possibility of social harm. This is not a logical process.”
Let’s say you’ve worked through your emotions, asked yourself if the person really meant to harm or criticize you, and you have determined they did. Reynolds says, it’s time to decide how much that really matters. In some cases, a situation becomes hostile. HR gets involved or you must decide, do I stay or do I go. Every day interactions rarely rise to that level. Instead, we must deal with difficulty.
She continues, resist trying to change others, “rise above the discord,” and mentally forgive people for not appreciating you or the impact they had on you. I would add, self-reflect often and grow through your own shortcomings. It’s not always everyone else’s fault.
Whatever the case, your mental energy is exhaustible. Reynolds calls it one of your “most precious resources.”
In order to continue doing great things, guard it like you would fine jewels, but also forgive yourself when you are what you are – a human being.
I may feel like a superhero sometimes when I’m firing on all cylinders, but God knows, you won’t find a Wonder Woman logo under my suit. Life reminds me often just how fallible I am and guess what, that’s okay.
Reynolds, M. (Sept. 7, 2012) What to do when someone doesn’t like you: Questions to ask yourself when you feel hurt. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wander-woman/201209/what-do-when-someone-doesn-t-you.
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Pamela Say is a published author, fundraiser, and life-long student of leadership. Browse Pam's blog entries for possible conference session or keynote topics. Pam customizes training opportunities for her clients.
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