You’ve seen it at work and at home. Someone is anxious about something and suddenly you are feeling anxious too. You know this isn’t healthy and that you shouldn’t feel this way which only makes it worse. Now you’re self-judging for not distancing yourself from the drama and begin to doubt your own effectiveness. You start losing sleep and wake up in the middle of the night, running the day’s conversations over in your mind.
Lately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and sucked in by another person’s angst. Drama is created when a person can’t accept the way they feel so they try to externalize it or put that feeling off on others, usually in a highly demonstrative or desperate way. This behavior provides them a temporary yet unsustainable relief from their discomfort. Thus, they continue the drama dance to try to unload their despair.
I notice I have been feeling anxious and assuming the anxiety of this person. I’ve...
Last evening a client told me a story of how a customer was being condescending and threatened to report her to her boss in a truly snotty way over something that didn’t make sense. My client felt under siege and desperately asked her not to do that. The customer is doing it anyway. I suggested three things:
My client said that if she had asked...
If you work anywhere you likely have had a colleague try to make you look bad. Most of my clients have had to struggle with this. It is disempowering and injects a fear of losing your job which ultimately leads to a fear of losing people who you love. This is where executive presence is crucial. This is where you don’t react at all. This is where you just pause, stare at them for a count of five and then ask, “Are you trying to make me look bad?” That will stop them dead.
Call them out with curiosity for exactly what they are doing. Don’t characterize them, get angry or defensive. Simply ask them if what it looks like they are doing is in fact what they are doing. If they deflect back to you say, “Ok, I wanted to get clarity on that because for a minute it felt like you were trying to make me look bad.” No one can argue with how you feel.
This scenario gives you a few moments to recenter yourself, for people on the periphery to validate in their...
This week a very capable client was struggling with some of the work I am having her do around ‘doubt’ and ‘letting go.’ She said she “came up blank” on what she was angry about, what she can terminate right now, where she feels shame and what she feared.
Questioning our thoughts and feelings often uncovers that they are assumptions and not true at all. These questions help you get deeply into the thoughts and feelings that hold you back - keep you guarded, resentful or powerless. Nobody wants to face them. But, if we don’t they chase us down the rest of our lives. Think of the last time you lashed out, withdrew, or quit something. What FEELING was at the heart of the behavior? I want you to be able to re-examine that feeling as to whether it is an assumption or really true. (This photo shows the process of finding the pause moment to accomplish this strategy.
She then shared that she does feel shame around weight and being...
Last evening one of my clients was suffering because of a colleague who was bullying her. This bully was sucking her energy and high performance right out of her. I was so happy for her to watch her become a mindful third party observer of the bully’s behavior such that it even made her laugh.
Losing your cool is as bad as withdrawing. Both render you ineffective. Both dummy down your authentic risk taking ability. People notice both.
When you play it safe or are reactionary you are playing THEIR game. Play YOUR game. Pause. Critical think. Observe what is behind the mask. Be curious. Then get back to your strengths.
When the bully senses that you are holding it together his or her behavior will escalate. That is where you become amused. Just stare at them. Observe. It can be quite entertaining.
May you become a silent witness to all your experiences, including your personal history. That’s power. That’s executive presence.
Do you want to advance in...
Nearly all conflict in the world stems from one simple necessity – and it isn’t the need to win. Wars, corporate battles, department squabbles, and relationship foes are rooted in the same deep-seated need – the need to be right.
Compound the need to be right with an ineffective ability to persuade others to believe you are right can lure in feelings of inadequacy and, in extreme cases, an overwhelming feeling of threat. Not only are our emotions running wild with fear, anger, and frustration a physical reaction begins to occur.
When we sense we are in danger our body gears up to protect itself. You may have noticed your heart racing before a big presentation or your throat tightening as an argument escalates. This is the body preparing itself for what is called “fight-or-flight,” an immediate physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event. This was...
Have you ever tried to reason with a difficult person who absolutely will not listen? Anxiety builds when you think you are making a logical argument, have the facts behind you, the other person is not bending at all yet you keep arguing with them. You start to question yourself, doubting your effectiveness. Your frustration becomes apparent, unraveling of your composure and destroying your executive presence.
If after you have tried to work with someone to examine all sides of an issue and the other party still behaves egregiously, dismiss the conversation like it never happened. You heard me. Walk away.
Don't argue with fools or you will become the fool. Cut the conversation off cold. "I respectfully disagree." and move on – walk away, address another party, get off the phone, leave the room.
This abrupt ending will send a clear message that you see no value in engaging, devaluing their perspective all together without becoming...
Direct communication is the best way to go through life. But instead, people practice avoidance (ignoring the person or the problem) or triangulation (bringing in a third person to validate that your condemnation is correct).
Leadership expert Dr. Henry Cloud’s Law of Exposure says, “Life is better lived in the light — that is, things are better out in the open, even if these things are negative. Conflict or hard feelings cause a break in the connection between two people, and relationship can only be restored by communicating honestly.
One of the biggest traps that we all fall into at one time or another is getting stuck in the whirlpool of unnecessary drama.”
What I see is that avoidance of direct communication happens when we fear conflict. Rightly so. Everyone hates conflict. Except for those who thrive on drama - the most dangerously insecure people of all.
But what if we shifted the perspective from conflict to...
Recently I had a client tell me that when she opened a discussion with a direct report about a violation of the dress code the person erupted, quit on the spot and immediately left the workplace. We role played the discussion and how to frame such a discussion so as to depersonalize it.
What I found most interesting is that the company rehired this person who abandoned the workplace the same day at another location in another leadership role. What???
Now my client has to manage a team who knows the organization will tolerate unprofessional and insubordinate behavior. She has to gain respect from a team who knows they don’t have to listen or adhere to company policy to keep their job.
We are now positioning her transferable skills for a company with a more solid culture. In the meantime here is a tip for when you need to have a difficult conversation with an employee.
Have you ever been in a high stakes meeting or in a conversation where someone challenges your position and you immediately start to feel the world closing in on you? Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl describes that moment this way ~ “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
It’s important to have actionable strategies when our thoughts take over and rule our actions. You are not your thoughts.
The Pause Café
When you feel anxious or aggravated practice what my clients and I call “The Pause Café.” It starts with a deep breath where you ask yourself, “What is going on with me?” Invite in the tension by being curious to it, not turning away. What we run from chases us down until we deal with it. Identify where the tension sits in your body. You may...
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