My mother was an expert plate thrower! As a result, when I was growing up, none of our china matched. It was her way of dealing with frustration, but it made no sense to me. At the time, I couldn’t understand why she didn’t just talk about the problem and save the china.
Later on, I realised that throwing plates and other forms of aggressive behaviour, are not the only destructive ways of dealing with frustration. At the other end of the spectrum, there are people who say and do nothing, regardless of how they are treated or the level of frustration they feel. These are people who are unable or unwilling to handle the situation, so they say nothing and quietly fume!
Now you may think that at least the benefit of this approach is it demonstrates remarkable restraint and avoids confrontation. Where personal safety is at stake I’d agree, but not when it applies to the everyday challenges we all experience in our work or personal lives, and definitely not if we want to have happy, fulfilling, respectful relationships with others … and with ourselves!
When we fail to speak up and challenge situations, behaviours or comments that undermine who we are, we teach people how to treat us!
And the damage doesn’t end there …
Repressing the emotions you feel, rather than speaking up, damages your self-esteem. Those feelings build and give rise to resentment, even depression, with the likelihood that one day you will explode!
All it takes is for someone or something to press your buttons …
- your partner wants to talk about business issues over breakfast, while you’re trying to get the kids ready for school
- a client (or boss) tries to blame you, because they messed up and you weren’t a mind-reader
- you have just discovered that an outstanding invoice wasn’t paid when promised, while you have continued to do more work. Now you have to chase them for the money
- the person you’re trying to communicate with, cuts you off mid-sentence and clearly thinks what they have to say is more important than listening to you
- people you rely on are not delivering what you need and it’s affecting business. You need to have that conversation, but you’re worried about making things worse!
Sound familiar? These experiences and many more happen to all of us, yet what makes the difference to the outcome is how we choose to respond. At one end of the response spectrum is aggression and at the other, passivity, but neither resolves the problem or prevents its repetition.
When such behaviour continues, it has the potential to take consequences to a whole new level. Think about …
- the accumulated damage to your relationships
- the impact on your business
- the effect on your confidence and self-esteem
- the way you see yourself and how others see you
- the price you pay in health and well-being from the impact of stress
I once listened to a quiet, contained, middle-aged woman describe the volcano she felt inside, as ‘red hot lava, just waiting to erupt’. Imagine living with all that anger and resentment? Quite apart from the impact on her life (and of those around her), what unseen damage was she doing to her mind and body?
How to take control
Responding assertively to the challenges we face in business and our personal lives is a learned skill. I know, because the plate throwing response was too destructive for me. Rather than reacting, jumping to conclusions or making assumptions, I learnt to take control and respond confidently and effectively to those things which pressed my buttons. In doing so, I discovered that being assertive achieves far better outcomes, reduces the stress and leaves you feeling good about yourself.
So the next time someone’s behaviour presses your buttons, take a deep breath, stand tall and calmly and clearly state what you want. Remember, every time you react, rather than respond, you give away your power!
… and if you need a little help, or you’d like to chat in confidence, just ask!