SOME things you know from focused concentration — like thinking, studying, comparing and analysing. Some things you know through observation and experience. Some realisations come to you quietly... just by surrendering. Wise men say that life isn’t random.
There’s a pattern and purpose within every existence.
They believe the reason challenges arise in our life is, simply, to make us more aware of our inner purpose.
I believe the smart ones among us are those who can stay silent long enough to hear these whispers of wisdom.
In the past week, I had to mediate a feud between a team of professionals, each a specialist in a particular field. Communication had all but broken down between the parties.
Each one believed they had done their best. Everyone felt taken for granted. Imagine how this caused them to feel misunderstood, threatened, violated, hurt ...and a whole host of other emotions one can only imagine from the expressions that were exchanged!
How well can you support people when they’re upset?
I soon found that it takes much more than the basic skills of listening and understanding, and clarifying!
I had to make it safe for each party to open up without fear of judgment, humiliation or rejection.
I had to engage and build rapport so that the connection to the bigger picture and the singular objective wouldn’t be lost.
I had to communicate my belief in each one, my respect for their capability so that they sensed I cared about what they cared about.
Have I mentioned how challenging this type of work is? This play and display of attitudes, emotions and behaviour comes down to how “awake” we are. Are we conscious of what we’re doing? Have we considered our approach and the consequences?
Life lends itself to expanding our awareness. Expand doesn’t mean information will suddenly blow up in our face like a balloon. It means life will subtly offer us ways to respond... if we care to check our feelings, expectations, assumptions, beliefs, and perceptions.
My job as mediator is to slow things waa...aayyy down to allow time for the team to consider all options.
Key questions are “What am I feeling? How intensely am I feeling that? What do I believe that is causing me to feel that?
Is the other person’s experience the same as mine? Who do I want to be in a case like this?”
Questioning your perception gives you distance from a problem, and with distance comes objectivity. But there is no such thing as total objectivity. We all see the world through tinted glasses (our filters are made up of our upbringing, expectations, assumptions) and if you mistake your viewpoint for reality, it’s just the tint pretending to be clear.
When somebody reacts to a challenge by taking it personally, with defensiveness, anger and blind stubbornness, it’s usually because some core belief has been opposed. People say ugly and hurtful things because we forget we are more than our beliefs!
My role as mediator is to remind them. Sometimes when their filters are too cloudy and their heads too noisy, I get tough. So I set ground rules.
“I will hold you accountable,” I say.
“Own your own feelings rather than blame them on someone else.”
Be careful how you confront another as the outcome may likely be volatile. Although our assumptions can change in a split second, nobody likes being told they’re wrong! Depriving someone of what they expect directly challenges how they live.
Being emotional is equated with being out of control (which itself is an undesirable feeling). Being aware that you have feelings is a step up from just experiencing them.
The next step is much harder, choosing how to respond. (1) Bull in a China shop or The Incredible Hulk (2) I became angry because... (3) What shall I do with my anger?
I began by talking about how we know stuff. Sometimes learning happens when we’re actively engaged. My experience with wisdom is that it speaks in silence. It may be accompanied by a memory, sensation, longing or impulse.
I believe the purpose of life is to bring us closer to our calling — our truth. What are you pursuing, I asked the team? We are more than our reputation. Nothing actually belongs to us. We belong to the world.
It’s just insecurity and fear
“YOU’VE put on weight,” my friends told me at a party recently. “Isn’t it hard to maintain our looks after a certain age?” they chatted among themselves. “Nowadays we must watch out for young girls, even the maids,” another added. How not to be upset at such times.
EASY! Isn’t it easy to laugh at slapstick? Step back and imagine these were actors putting up a comedic skit on stage. (Title of play: Obedient wives’ club?) Imagine that they are speaking of themselves. Take another step back and ask What type of thinking would produce that kind of speaking? What kind of world are these (women) living in?
What would life be like if everyone lived on a superficial level, if all they ever saw and valued was outer appearances? How worthwhile and meaningful could life be if all they ever focused on was competing with younger, more attractive persons and worrying about how their spouses may stray?
How high do you think the self-esteem of an approval junkie or a people-pleaser is?
Ever heard of the saying, “We can only ever give away what we have?” The perception I get from this crowd is insecurity and fear. Now hear this from me: What comes from me is MINE, what does not come from me, is NOT MINE. If you did not say it, do it, feel it, it isn’t yours. The good news is that we can CHOOSE what’s ours. We can choose our responses. So why not DECIDE to do your best (with your health, fitness, family, time, etc) because these become you. What other people say does not.
How to deal with criticism
I’M a certified company secretary with 23 years’ experience. I report to the CEO. Trouble is, the non-executive directors often come around to criticise me. They also undermine my authority when they support their “favourites” within the organisation. How do I tell my bosses that this is demoralising?
IT can be demoralising when non-executive directors criticise and undermine your authority. After all, you’re qualified and you know what you’re doing. Plus, the CEO isn’t the one complaining about you.
What aspects of this experience can you manage or control? Where are you expecting the change to come from? Change happens when there is (a) awareness and (b) acceptance that something needs to be handled differently. But what if awareness and acceptance don’t happen?
If you’re responsible for your own career, here’s what you can do. (1) Present a set of criteria you believe is fair grounds for someone to evaluate your performance. (2) Present this to your boss. Talk to the CEO about your situation in a factual manner, describing specific occasions. Request clarity in the line of feedback and feed-forward. (3) Examine your ideals and beliefs around criticism.
Can you deal with criticism in an objective manner? This means asking for clarification from the person, and if sensible, make the necessary changes. Can you separate comments about your work from that against your person? This means accepting feedback professionally and discard or reject comments that are aimed to maim and weaken. After all, your self-esteem is strong enough to know the difference!