Warning: this post contains some strong language that may not be appropriate for sensitive souls.
* An overly demanding client has nickeled-and-dimed you down to your lowest rate and is never satisfied
* You’re angry at yourself for ever taking on this job making you work for a jerk
* You’re going out of your way to serve a customer and she treats you like a servant
* You spend hours perfecting a proposal and you never hear back from your prospect
* You’ve given a colleague free advice, and now he’s offering your service at half-price
* Colleagues and job sites are bringing your rates down and you can’t do anything about it
* You’ve just lost a dream project; you have no idea why and you feel like giving up
* Your Mom says: “I told you this would happen. Why don’t you get a real job?”
Sounds familiar? If that’s the case, how do you usually respond? Can you let it go, or are you getting sick and tired of having to depend on people who don’t seem to care? How long are you going to put up with that? Isn’t it time to draw a line in the sand and say to yourself:
“I’ve had it. Enough’s enough!”
If that’s the case, why don’t you get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell:
“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!!”
Of course you’re not going to do that. That only happens in movies. You’ve been conditioned to respond in a rational way and to behave like a proper professional.
Shit happens. You just have to make sure it doesn’t hit your fans. Besides, we live in the age of positive psychology where people don’t have problems anymore. People have “challenges”. We don’t run into difficulties. We call them “learning opportunities.” We never fail. We just get a “less than desirable result.” We’ve learned to turn lemons into lemonade and above all… we never, ever argue. We have “spirited debates” instead.
Welcome to the bitter-sweet world of reframing, sugar coating and turd-polishing! Are you feeling any better yet? Should you internalize your anger and put on your happy Facebook face? After all, you don’t want the world to know you’re having a hard day, do you? Everything is always A-ok and the show must go on, right? So, get a grip and pull yourself together!
If only it were that easy.
How healthy can it be, to keep it all inside and pretend everything’s alright all the time? You’re not a saint. Sometimes, you’re a volcano waiting to erupt and you’re ready to slap those people telling you that “everything happens for a reason.” Is that supposed to help? Give me a break!
So, what do you do when your frustration reaches a boiling point and you’ve absolutely had it? Hit the bottle? Hit the wall? Use your partner as a punching bag? That’ll make it all go away, won’t it?
Even if you’re not a disciple of Sigmund Freud or a follower of Carl Jung, it’s easy to recognize four classic ways of dealing with rage, disappointment and despair. I’ve broken them down into different personalities and I’d like you to meet them.
1. THE PESSIMISTIC DOORMAT: the passive response
– Easily overwhelmed, defeated and depressed
– Blames him or herself
– Excuses the behavior of others
– Avoids confrontation at all cost
– A people pleaser, always ready to take on the victim role
– Gives in; gives up and disengages
– Acts out of fear and fatalism
– Tells you: “I feel like shit.”
2. THE BULLY: the aggressive response
– Acts impulsively
– Takes everything personally
– Goes on the attack and thrives on confrontation
– Blames and criticizes others
– Feels superior because others are always wrong
– Overbearing and controlling: it’s my way or the highway
– Acts out of anger
– Tells the world: “These guys are shit.”
3. THE INDIRECT ADVERSARY: the passive aggressive response
– Acts in a disingenuous way
– Responds with sarcasm and cynicism
– Refuses to openly acknowledge that there’s a problem
– Feels misunderstood and underappreciated,
– Hides true feelings: smiles when angry
– Cooperates but does so begrudgingly, even sabotaging the effort
– Acts out of denial, resentment and evasion
– Won’t tell you: “I pretend I don’t give a shit but I really do.”
I’ll be the first one to admit that these profiles are based on broad generalizations. Secondly, I am only describing a type of behavior. Behavior always takes place on a continuum and not every individual will display all characteristics at once. But sometimes it’s easier to make a point by highlighting the extremes.
Third, although some of us have become better at one communication style, we might show tendencies of another style, depending on the situation. In many cases, we have learned these adaptive responses at an early age, often from a role model such as a parent.
Fourth: because people are so accustomed to their own behavior, they are often unaware of their communication style and it kicks in automatically.
If you’re a blogger or a regular participant in discussions on various social networks, you’ve probably dealt with a few of these individuals. The nature and tone of some of the comments people throw at you, can give you an insight into who’s leaving them.
A few examples…
The pessimistic doormat will say things like: “I should have known better. It’s all my fault. There’s nothing we can do about it. It is what it is. Who are we to think that we can change things? It’s been like this for years and it’s no use going against the grain. We’re just a small piece in a big puzzle. Stop wasting your time. I’m sorry but that’s just how I feel.”
The bully will tell you: “You’re dead wrong. I can’t believe you just said that. It makes no sense. When’s the last time you had your brain checked? Stop being so ridiculous. Who do you think you are? Did you even read what you just wrote? These guys owe me big time. I did nothing wrong. They’re the ones that screwed things up. I’ll make them pay!”
The indirect adversary’s favorite phrase is “Whatever,” while moaning and muttering to himself. You should hear the sarcasm when she says: “Sure, we’ll do whatever you want. Let’s see how well that works out.” He’ll tell you: “I’m not upset at all. You seem to be the only one having a problem here. Everything’s fine on my end,” even though things are not at all fine on his end.
But enough about other people. Let’s talk about you. How do you respond when someone’s made you mad as hell and you’re not going to take it anymore? Will you let them have it because they deserve it? What is your weapon of choice: public humiliation, strong language, ridicule? Or will you withdraw from the world and curl up in a ball crying “poor me, this is so unfair!”?
UNDER THE CARPET
I’m not a big fan of sticking strong emotions in a jar and putting a lid on it. That jar is called your body. It’s the house you live in and if you start piling up junk, it will start to rot, stinking up the entire place. Sooner or later, you’ll be poisoning the whole neighborhood. Here’s the thing: all that garbage has to come out at some point, or else the house will burst at the seams. You might as well let it out now.
It’s okay to be mad. It’s unhealthy to stay stuck in it, even if anger motivates you.
Begin by realizing that you’re feeling all these strong emotions because someone or something crossed the line between what’s acceptable and unacceptable to you.
Before you ask yourself what that might be, you have to let off some steam, preferably in a way that does not hurt you or any (significant) others.
The worst thing you could do, is to write an angry response or to let whoever has hurt you “have it,” even though it might be totally justified. Any negative knee-jerk response will almost certainly backfire. On the internet -as in real life- you can’t ever take something back.
What you need to do first, is to get rid of that explosive energy. Break a couple of plates if you must; play some hard rock on Guitar Hero; beat the crap out of your drum kit, leave your house and run a couple of miles… as long as you get out of that mad mood of yours. Here’s a hint: it helps to get physical!
Once you’re out of that angry state, you might realize that you were not really responding to what happened, but to something deeper that was ignited by the event. When we finally give ourselves permission to take the lid off that jar, it’s quite common that a lot of that piled up garbage comes out, that has absolutely nothing to do with the trigger. As a result we overreact.
Now, as soon as you are in a more resourceful mood, it’s much easier to dissociate from that spark that caused the flame, and figure out how to respond in a more calm and collected way. You might find it helpful to ask yourself a couple of questions. However, steer away from disempowering questions like:
– How could he/she do this to me?
– Why does this always happen to me?
– What’s wrong with me?
Believe me, your brain will always come up with an answer, and you’re not going to like it. Ask these types of questions instead:
- How can I resolve this situation in a good way?
- What’s the first thing I can do to turn this around?
- What help do I need and who can best help me?
- What have I learned from this that is positive and useful?
- What changes can I make to prevent this from happening again?
Sometimes the answers will come easily. Sometimes they won’t. If you feel that it’s not so hard to get back into that old, negative mood, you’re not going to get very far. It’s better to take some time and change your state of mind before doing something you will later regret. The heat of the moment often magnifies things that -when you look back at them- are no big deal. And if they are, the more reason to respond with care and consideration.
Remember: you own the house you live in. It’s your choice to open your house up to things that don’t support you and to folks that respect neither you nor your property. If they show up at your doorstep with a “present” you don’t want, do not accept it.
By this time, you’re hopefully in a more resourceful mode. The mode of what I like to call:
4. THE RESPECTFUL ADVOCATE: the assertive response
– Being collected and connected
– Owning one’s feelings
– Opening a dialogue: seeking resolution
– Looking at the issue from different sides
– Competently standing up for oneself
– Acting out of confidence and optimism
– Tells you: “I’ll turn this shit into manure.”
You’ll know that you’re in this mindset because you’ll feel much more relaxed and in charge of the situation. You’re doing your best to understand where the other person is coming from, and you realize that just because people do stupid things sometimes, it doesn’t mean that they are stupid.
In this frame of mind, you respond to the present and not to the past. You deal with the event and leave it at that.
You stand up for yourself from a place of confidence, not arrogance or anger. You make your point knowing that not everyone will or has to agree with you.
You are aware that you can’t control others. You can only control yourself. People can only push your buttons if you let them. You choose your battles and you walk away when people disrespect you. You choose to surround yourself with friends that support and respect you. You deserve no less.
This is your house. This is your garden.
You sow the seeds and weed the weeds.
May it bloom as you blossom,
and may your home be filled with
laughter, peace and prosperity!
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
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