I heard a statistic recently that that over 90% of our current reaction to a situation has got very little to do with that situation. Now there’s a statistic that one can easily get very defensive about: “Are you saying that my irritation at Ann’s unco-operative behaviour at work is nothing to do with Ann?”
Well the answer is yes, to an extent (that’s the 10%!) but the challenge is to take the focus off Ann and start to look at what’s happening inside oneself, when faced by behaviours such as Ann’s in the workplace. One of the most useful definitions of what happens for us when we are upset or annoyed by something is that framed by Cinnie Noble, that the triggering behaviour of the other leads us to perceive our needs, values or identity are in some way undermined or challenged. So if we take the situation with Ann, the imaginary staff member, what might this challenge or undermine for you?
It will probably touch for starters, on values – work ethic perhaps or the importance of being collaborative and team work. You would draw on memories from childhood of hearing from parents or other respected teachers about the importance of people pulling their weight and observing the scorn they had for people who didn’t conform to this way of being.
Needs are also involved – the need to get the job done effectively and efficiently – maybe you have a need to look good perhaps with the boss or maybe you just need to get it done so as to get home to family and free-time.
The third piece, identity is often a juicy kernel to unpack. More than likely, at some level, we might feel perhaps undervalued or disrespected if our colleague Ann doesn’t want to co- operate. Here, this can touch on the universal habit many of us develop of wanting or expecting our identity to be reinforced and positively endorsed by others around us and feeling hurt/angry where this is lacking.
So now, Ann’s behaviour is actually just a key that’s unlocking a doorway to our own storage cupboard of beliefs about ourselves, needs in other areas of our lives, learned values about how people should behave.
But you might ask, why would I bother doing this – why should I spend time exploring what’s happening for me when it’s Ann that’s causing the problems in the first place…we are back to focusing on Ann again of course – but if you can bear with me, the reason is very simple.
When you can own your reaction and take responsibility for it, your ability to deal with the situation involving Ann will be greatly enhanced. For starters, imagine that you could be in a place where Ann’s unco-operative behaviour would no longer be experienced by you as anything other than a mild challenge that you have to deal with? Think of how much more relaxed you would feel? In turn, you would have greater resourcefulness and skill in how you deal Ann because when we are less stressed, our ability to think creatively and problem-solve increases.
Most important of all, you would be coming across differently to Ann – non-reactive and calm rather than having an undercurrent of resistance and irritation in your energy around her and any action you would take would be so much more effective than if it was laden down with your own emotional responses to her behaviour.
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