Last week, I left you with the cliffhanger of wrestling with the idea that in conflict with your boss even though it all seems personal, it’s actually not. I shared that when this happens your mind and feelings tell you all kinds of things that are personal, and it is challenging to think that your mind and feelings are wrong. This is especially true when they lead you down the road of coming up with all kinds of reasons why you are right. Instead, slow it down and try to consider that all the things leading you to believe that this is personal, are all the reasons why it is not.
You see, they are bumping up against the feelings, reactions, thoughts, and issues that come up for YOU that have surfaced throughout YOUR life when this type of conflict comes up. Of course, it’s personal you think, because the truth is… IT IS! But not for them. It’s personal to you because of what happened to you in these past situations. So, just as they are acting out their own issues on you, you are reacting to previous conflicts with others who have acted out their issues on you as well.
Let’s say that in your past work history or even personal history, you had interactions and conflict with a boss or someone else in power like a parent or teacher or coach. Suppose within those interactions they indicated that either your work or your character or skill level or even personality, was somehow inferior or just not acceptable to them. Because they had power over you, most likely you did not fight back or if you did, it was not as successful as you would have liked. Those conflicts and interactions became memories within you, that then created fears and wounds that then set off reactions within you. These reactions release thoughts based on them that are meant to convince you that what is happening is in fact personal.
In other words, how they are treating you and talking to you is all about you.
Now, let’s consider that they too had negative interactions with power people in their lives, and they too were unsuccessful in resolving those issues with those power people. Now they are in power over you and others. Without the skills to communicate effectively or the awareness to understand where their reactions to the conflicts and interactions with you and others are coming from, they are susceptible to only being led by whatever is going on within them, stimulated by their unresolved past issues with those who had power over them.
So of course in real time when they are in conflict with you, the intention of their wounds getting triggered is to make it all about you. This way your boss does not have to deal with what is really going on within them, which by the way is those inner wounds convincing them that there is something wrong with them. They’re not ready to handle that!
Still following me? Good. So, what can you do about it?
1. Recognize that there is nothing you can do about them because you cannot do their work for them. Having this awareness even in the face of bad behavior, though still aggravating, can also be empowering. Yes, they have issues and no they do not have the right to take them out on you, but it is not you they’re actually acting out on. Therefore, ‘this is not personal’ can be your inner mantra.
2. Be aware of and do your best to understand what they are triggering in you. To do this you must spend time with yourself and tap into the feelings and thoughts that are coming up when you have these interactions and conflicts with them, or when you witness them playing out their bad behavior on others. Yes, we do get triggered when we witness others being treated poorly. We think it is just because it is unfair, but any strong reactions should be your first clue that there is something going on within you that needs some real attention.
3. If you need to stand up for yourself in the moment, then do your best to do so from the place of being specific about the points you want to clarify in their critique of your performance and/or about the way you wish to be addressed. But you must do this while recognizing that they are still your boss. In other words, “the fact that you did not do your job and are now angry at me, because things I was responsible for did not turn out well because of you” is clear, but it is coming from your wounds. Your wounds want them to feel badly about their behavior and actions and the fact that they are making you feel bad. A statement like: ‘I want to clarify the points you have just made and as I heard them they are (state them). I would like to share that the best way for me to really understand and respond from my best place is if I am not yelled at, belittled (or state whatever the behavior is).’
4. Understand that the only person you can control is you, therefore working on whatever is working you in these interactions is extremely helpful in helping you distance yourself from feeling that it is personal. Getting help through courses, workshops, etc. on communicating beyond your feelings and dealing with difficult people should be a priority if your boss doesn’t change and you can’t leave.
We all have work to do, it’s not personal and yet it actually is. It is our personal work to do on NOT taking it personal.