Unraveling the Devastation of Hate by Executive Coach Mary Lee Gannon
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We are on this earth to create meaningful relationships. This is where we feel safe, connected and valued. To do that we must be able to communicate and not guard our souls. We are more successful at this when we cultivate a curiosity to understand how people think, feel and behave. This alone will jumpstart your self-awareness. A lack of awareness of how you and others think, feel and behave will result in failed relationships.
Most conflicts at work and especially at the executive level come from poor communication and misaligned values. When we see our work in a silo and not aligned with others we become very turf oriented and not collaborative. Break down those barriers and your leadership is stronger and more effective.
We listen three ways: 1) for the other person to take a breath so we can be heard with a story of our own, 2) to solve the other person’s problem when we haven’t established trust and they likely don’t have a reason to care what we think, and 3) to deeply hear what they have to say without jumping to a solution or turning away in discomfort or apathy – affirming them and being with them in their feelings.
When we deep listen by first being aware and accepting of our own fears we can more deeply see what the other person needs, name the feeling and align with that. Understand the language of feelings so that you may name them in yourself and others. Keep this diagram handy to help you get to the feeling at the heart of a situation:
Christine just got some bad news. She was just diagnosed with breast cancer. She tells some work friends and Sally immediately cuts in that her cousin had breast cancer and after chemo and radiation was just fine (Level 1 listening).
Lauren tells Christine that there is a new therapy being done at John Hopkins and that she’ll research the information for her (Level 2 listening).
Jennifer says, “I hear the fear and sadness in your voice. That must be really scary. What overwhelms you right now? I’m here to listen.” (Level 3 Deep Listening.)
Christine explains that she’s worried about the treatment side effects and if it will even work. She’s worried if her children will have a mother.
Jennifer says, “I want to go with you for the treatments if that is allowed. I can’t fix this but I am good at holding hands.” (Loving Speech)
When first hearing that Christine had cancer, Jennifer was anxious and really uncomfortable. Sally and Lauren were too. Jennifer remembered her aunt dying from cancer. She had to be aware of that feeling so as not to turn away from it and in essence turn away from what her friend needed in the process. So she took a deep breath, found The Still Space and was aware of the discomfort, unraveling what was behind it. She was afraid that she might get cancer someday. But in that moment she was able to appreciate that she was not the one with cancer today and that her friend needed her.
This mastery of emotions takes practice and is definitely attainable. The sequence that Jennifer took herself through can be applied when under fire at work, when nervous about a big presentation, when in a confrontation with a colleague or in a family drama conversation at home.
Don and Mark were arguing about where resources should be spent on their project. Don wanted them for personnel and Mark wanted them for technology.
“More people are not the answer,” said Mark. “We can count on technology.” You might say Mark was anxious about not getting his way.
“What other companies have used this technology and what have their results been?” asked Don.
“Tellstate used it and they are a multimillion dollar company,” replied Mark. You might say that Don was intrigued about finding the right solution.
“I don’t want to bring any more anxiety to this issue than is necessary. Do you mind if I talk with someone from Tellstate and gauge what their challenges and staff needs were in implementation?” asked Don. “We may be able to learn from their experience.”
The questions Don will ask Tellstate will be far less biased than Marks. This way Don names a feeling to put it at ease and aligns with Mark to come back with recommendations from a resource Mark put forth.
Don really wanted to argue that just because Tellstate used the software and was a successful company did not mean they became successful because of the software. But that would get them nowhere in resolving the issue. This way Don will learn valuable intel to help make an objective decision that Mark will not be able to argue with because it was his resource.
Deep listening is a skill that calls you to be silent in The Still Space and manage yourself. No need to be heard. No need to solve the problem. Only the desire to be with this person in this situation. The same goes for joy. When someone is happy – be happy with them. No need to draw a parallel to your joy. No need to interject that the joy may be fleeting to protect them for future disappointment. Don’t allow your joy scarcity bias to ruin their moment. It’s not about you. Deep listening and loving speech are about them.
The Devastation of Hate
Whew! This is a rough one for me. I grew up in a house where my father was a stabilizing influence of love, but it paled in comparison to my mother’s hate for just about anybody. It took me a long time to understand that it wasn’t personal but a defense mechanism. When I depersonalized it I could detach from the contempt and feel compassion for her desperate loneliness and fear of abandonment.
Hate in a person’s core shows up at work. Don’t let them make it about you because it isn’t. Observe it. Understand it. And detach from it. It isn’t your to respond to. Emotionally intelligent people do not engage with hate and insecurities. It is small. They rise above it. If they aim low, you go high.
Insecurity breeds anger, fear and injury. Insecure people feel others threaten them. If the insecure person doesn’t know how to heal their feelings of unworthiness, it can turn to hate. Hate for feeling uncomfortable. Hate for their uncertainty. Hate for feeling left out. Hate for feeling dismissed. Hate for feeling not good enough. Insecurity can bleed hate like a hemorrhage. Hate isn’t mutually exclusive. If you hate others, you hate yourself for something too.
That hateful person at work that drives you crazy likely hates themselves far more than they hate you. They just don’t know it or how to heal it. You know a lot better.
Hateful people don’t feel safe. They behave desperately without self-awareness because their only desire is to feel protected, affirmed and not alone. Since these are primal needs in life, severely insecure people will take no prisoners in their quest for safety. Sometimes they are so slick you don’t see their hatred coming.
My mother was a good person at heart yet sadly very insecure. Not knowing what to do with those feelings she externalized her discomfort in manipulation, divisiveness and hate. When she was in her 30s and 40s coaching and therapy were not the acceptable modalities they are today. Therapy carried a stigma. Coaching didn’t even exist. Self-awareness was not recognized as a superpower either. Back then the self-regulation tactics I share here were not apparent.
Please understand that when people in older generations grew up they weren’t aware of self-help, personal development or more modern mindful practices of today. They often don’t have the awareness you do or even know what self-awareness is. Often, they don’t trust their ability to change, see a reason to or even know how to. We have to be compassionate to the limited resources they had available. Be forgiving.
Later in life when I understood my mother’s childhood experience of having been marginalized into a hospital room closet at the age of eight from where she watched her father’s death, I developed understanding and compassion for her acts of desperation. She must have felt so scared and alone. On the ride home in the car after her father’s death, family members were so consumed in their own grief that nobody thought to nurture or check in with her. She was invisible. The rest of her life she fought to be visible.
My mother was never able to heal that wound that repeatedly inflicted itself for the rest of her life. Sadly, she couldn’t see this because she had very little self-awareness. She described her father’s death like it was a movie – no emotion. I can’t even imagine how desperate she must have felt on that day. She didn’t see how she had been neglected.
As a child I didn’t know that everyone’s mother wasn’t like my mother. Her anger and ridiculous perspectives were normalized in our house. As an adolescent, I was simply afraid of her. As an adult I was sad for the lack of steadiness and nurturing that I missed.
It was decades later when my son pointed out that there was a lot of hate in his childhood not only from his grandmother but in our house between his father and his family against me and vice versa, that I heard a wakeup call. He pointed out that he steps away anytime he feels hateful energy today. Great coping skill but it made me cringe to hear it. Amazing that he found The Still Space in his 20s. I own my part in his distaste for hate. I had learned the devastation of hate well. Anger and hate go hand in hand. They carry with them the art of blaming – such a disempowering perspective.
My father taught me peace and humor. He found his still space in our living room where he would sit and listen to jazz every night after dinner. He got involved with our church. He smiled often. He was calm unless he was watching a Steelers game. He was solid, caring for everyone. He volunteered giving dental exams in poor school districts and leading professional organizations on a state level. Service was his mindful practice. Sometimes I wish he had more self-help skills to have managed my mother better. He didn’t know how to do that. Most people in his generation didn’t. His superpower was calm. Jazz and service were his way of settling the storm for himself and our home. The lighthouse never falls into the water during a storm. He never yelled or argued. He was the lighthouse.
I didn’t feel safe during my divorce and reverted to the only coping strategy I had seen – hate. I did not at all feel safe in my financial independence, my ability to support my children, my aptitude to feel and give love, in my worthiness as a person. I was angry that we had to survive on public assistance, were homeless and without an automobile. I was angry at having to do everything myself. So, I responded to hate with hate. I was constantly on the defense fighting in court for any morsel of support I could get for the children who were wearing each other’s shoes and on free lunch.
I had no idea if I was going to be able to support my family or not. I certainly had conviction. But that was not a plan. I was angry that their father only had to take care of himself, except for $269 a week in support he provided the five of us while he vacationed internationally and played golf at the country club. I felt like a victim, abandoned and powerless. I felt like it was hard enough being a single parent of four children under seven, one with a developmental disability let alone have to fight for their food and clothing too.
I was angry. I was hateful toward him. I felt wronged. I was exhausted and angry for having to pick up the pieces for his irresponsibility. I felt victimized - like I was living a Francis Ford Coppola movie. You just don’t leave the Italian family.
And all the while I focused on hate, I drew hate my way. I let defending against my ex-husband’s and his family’s hate be my focus. Instead of being with the uncertainty of my situation and focusing on my strengths with faith in myself from the calmness I learned from my father, I got caught up in winning the hate game.
Don’t fight hate with hate. You’ll likely lose. The hateful have been mastering their craft much longer than you have and have no code of honor. The emptiness inside them echoes against the chambers of barren hearts. Spewing hate only fills those chambers for a moment. The tide quickly recedes exposing the indefinite hollowness they constantly seek to fill to no avail. Empty again.
Emotions are not mutually exclusive. When I was consumed with hate I found myself hateful and void of happiness. I remember yelling at someone who cut me off in the drive-through line at a fast food restaurant. I can still see myself sitting in that line afterward questioning how I could get so upset about something so trivial.
Hate breeds more hate. It is a red flag that something is unresolved and needs to be released to make room for acceptance.
I regained my power with forgiveness and The Three Things.
I first learned what it is to forgive when I forgave my ex-husband and his family. My ex-husband passed away when my children were teenagers. All I could think about was how sad it must be to be dying and not have had a close relationship with your children. I know he had regret. He had good in his soul. He had a lot of unrest too. I was sad for him and the children. It was sad all around.
Dealing with his family was exceedingly difficult after his death. Who would try to divide children who just lost their father against their only living parent? We talk about boundaries later in this book. I learned to have compassion for people who don’t know what they are.
Forgiveness was a long time coming. I realized it before I remarried. It opened the door of my heart for love. After that I learned to forgive my mother and others for whom I had expectations. I saw my mom’s goodness, sense of humor and kind little-girl soul under the stubbornness.
Why did I pursue forgiveness? For the reason my son pointed out. Hate is palpable. And people want to get away from the energy of hate. I much more value drawing people to me than driving them away. I just wasn’t willing to carry around all the anger it takes to be hateful. As a result, I made closer friends, had closer relationships, got better jobs, made space to give and receive kindness, and was just plain happier when I put down my guard. People liked me and I had a lot more fun.
How did I learn to stop hating and forgive? I released hate for love. I trained myself with self-awareness to see how hatred effected my own behavior and how it did the same in others. Then I self-regulated when I was about to say something too directly or do something rash. I’d just be very still - do nothing but get curious to what was behind my or another person’s behavior. Eventually, the knee-jerk inclination to speak without thought. The harsh feelings passed. It didn’t work all the time at first. But eventually it did. I told myself I didn’t have to defend myself or prove myself any longer. I was fine.
Imagine there is a sign that hangs on your mirror that says, “PROVEN!” Just by being alive you have already proven that you belong and are worthy to thrive in this world. Doubt that no more. You are proven.
At work people who are hateful can temper it most of the time but it will undoubtedly come out when they are blindsided, feel judged, or feel eclipsed by someone else. That becomes and injury. They don’t feel safe. Their reaction ends up being an overreaction that needs self-regulation.
If you overreact at work there might be something that you want to get more curious about. Lean in and just be with the feeling. What is it trying to teach you? Ask questions to help you understand what needs to be released.
Let no person or situation bring you low enough to hate. In hate you are not in your natural state. You are compromised. You can’t think clearly or execute openly and effectively in hate. Just be still a moment. “What do I need to release here?”
It takes a lot of energy to be hateful. Bottom line? Hate is just not worth it.