Carol M. Welsh, Author
The following is an excerpt from Carol’s book Stop When You See Red
All of us have Empowering Tendencies and Limiting Tendencies. Your Empowering Tendencies cause you to take a positive action. When you operate through your Empowering Tendencies, you feel good about yourself and what you’re doing. You also have more energy because life is both satisfying and enjoyable.
Your Limiting Tendencies cause you to react negatively to people and situations. Often, negative or difficult people trigger these Tendencies. When you’re operating through your Limiting Tendencies, you don’t feel good about yourself or in control of what’s happening. These reactions destroy your energy, leaving you feeling tired and depleted. Think back to the last time you lost your temper and remember how drained you felt afterward.
The Limiting Tendencies also cloud your perception of people and situations. You’re more apt to look at what’s wrong with the person, or be critical rather than look at what’s right. When you’re in this negative frame of mind, you are certain that the way you perceive the person or situation is correct because you can justify your perception. Therefore you think you’re right and of course they’re wrong!
Here’s a story from a student in my Communicating Effectively course: Evelyn, a young lawyer, was furious about the despicable way the four male lawyers in the office treated her. Well, she wasn’t going to put up with it any longer. In fact, she had already put down a nonrefundable deposit on office space in a city ninety miles away and was going to go into business for herself. She said she could hardly wait to leave although she had just bought a house.
One of the points I covered in the course was to reflect on your own behavior and reactions when you’re with this person or group that upsets you, and then ask yourself, “Would I like to come home to me?” Or “Would I like to work with me?”
Evelyn said she realized she had become a real bitch (her words, not mine). So the men snapped back and probably were thinking, “What’s her problem?”
Evelyn started her change by reclaiming who she really was—a vivacious and brilliant lawyer. She explained:
I walked into the office with my smile reattached and offered to make the coffee. I even offered to pour a cup for everyone. Before, if they asked for a cup, I’d snap, “Get it yourself!”
I started to laugh more, tell jokes, and just plain lightened up. In the forefront of my thoughts was: Would I like to work with me? In just one week I could answer yes, and the change in the men was amazing!
When they began being nice to me and treated me with respect, the respect became mutual. They started asking for my opinion. Then I consulted them by telling them I needed their expertise or advice. I knew they liked hearing this, so at first it was the game I played to get what I wanted. But I soon discovered I really valued their opinions.
One of the partners started calling me Eve. At first I resisted: “Let’s not get too familiar here.” But it fit my new image.
Eve laughed and added, “You don’t suppose I had a chip on my shoulder because I was the only woman lawyer and thought I’d never be included as part of the good old boys’ club. Who, me?”
This complete turnaround took only a week! Just to be sure, Eve waited two more weeks before breaking the lease on the office in the other city. By the time the course ended, she was sharing about her happiness at work and the redecorating plans for her house. Yet Eve still wondered how she could have been so wrong about the men.
Who were the negative, difficult people in this situation? Could it be that we might be difficult at times? It usually doesn’t occur to us that the other person might be thinking that we’re the one who is being difficult.
One day as I was combing my hair, I stopped and looked at the person looking back at me from the mirror. I was dismayed. What happened to my smile? I used to smile so much that college friends called me Smiley. Now I had a dour look on my face.
I let my boss steal my smile. I was upset with the way he treated me, with little respect. I felt like he was looking down on me. Well, I decided to put that smile back on my face even if I didn’t feel like smiling. When I walked into work, everyone smiled back. Soon the smile became genuine because smiling is so contagious! Just four hours later, my boss stuck his head into my office and said, “Carol, I don’t know what’s different about you, but I like you a whole lot better.”
We don’t realize how empowered we are to change a negative into a positive. Throughout my book and workshops, I keep repeating, “You can’t change the other person, you can only change yourself. Change how you approach the ‘difficult’ person and you might get a more favorable response.” As Eve and I changed, the people around us responded favorably to the positive change. It’s as simple as that!
Copyright © 2005-2006 Carol M. Welsh. All Rights Reserved