This week we once again have the opportunity to hear a new voice with our guest blogger Janet Thaeler.
Several months ago, I was introduced to Janet’s blog, newspapergrl, and have been an avid reader ever since...
Late last year, we had the opportunity to meet in person and decided that perhaps we could do "guest appearances" on each other’s blog...
I went first... now it’s Janet’s turn...
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How to Safely Navigate White Water Communication at Work and Home
I’ve been really angry at work only a few times that I can remember...
The first time it happened, I actually got into a heated shouting match with our company’s graphic designer that I was working with to help with the relaunch of our company’s new website.
Our target demographic for this site was young mothers. I had done extensive research and had all of the details mapped out with clear examples of what I wanted.
My designer disagreed. He wanted to create a generic website that appealed to everyone. He explained that he was the expert and that I should feel honored that he was giving me free "consulting".
"Boring", I declared!...
I knew in my heart, that if we were going to be noticed... we would need to find a way to appeal to our target market... young women.
Yet... I was new in my position as director of marketing... and since he had done some other work for the company prior to my arrival, he thought that he could force me to accept his ideas and abandon mine.
In some of our previous meetings, he bullied and belittled me... so much so in fact... that I began to dread working with him and often canceled meetings just to avoid confrontation.
He saw my weakness and exploited it.
I told myself that this time was going to be different.
Our meeting started cordially enough but soon we started to argue.
This time I stayed my course... I knew I was right and I wasn’t going to be bullied any longer.
The fight soon escalated as we began shouting loudly at each other so much... of which could be heard throughout the building.
Finally the company president (and my immediate boss) interceded... and demanded that we both stop immediately... as we were disrupting the entire office.
At that point I found myself embarrassed and self conscious.
Why doesn’t he defend me I wondered?
He hired me to do a job... now he won’t back me up.
Now I find myself becoming angry at my boss as well as the designer.
My confidence is no longer as I begin to feel dejected and beaten.
In the second situation I found myself angry at work, it was during a preliminary meeting with a potential client to discuss a possible new product.
The meeting is approaching 90 minutes as he ranted and raved about his revolutionary new baby mattress and why it’s so amazing.
The client continued quoting studies, rattling off statistics, and offering testimonials from well-known people... which isn’t bad... however interlaced with his diatribe were several pointed disparaging comments about women... especially about the mothers who were going to actually use his product.
With each judgmental comment he made, I found myself getting angrier and angrier. I wanted to speak up but I remained silent.
Trying to remain professional, I offered up my own comments and suggestions to him regarding his product, but he will have none of it and continues his own course unabated and commented that my ideas had no merit.
He was doing all the talking but not listening... and it frustrated me to no end... almost to a point of tears.
As I was sitting there listening to him babble on and on, I conjuring up childhood memories of trying to express a new idea to my older brothers... who would just tease me until I was so humiliated I couldn’t even think logically...
As my mind came back to the meeting at hand, I come to the realization that I can no longer sit by idly while he continued to criticize the very customers he was trying to attract.
I’m now so upset that I must confront him.
With my pent up anger, I now boldly challenge what I believe is his misguided thinking, and his patronizing of all mothers.
And when it’s over (it did finally end), I head off to seek the refuge of the women’s restroom... crying as I knew I had let my emotions get the best of me.
Perhaps in hindsight, I probably should have excused myself calmly and said I had another appointment and just abruptly ended the meeting... and walk away... but this wasn’t me... and I couldn’t let it go.
My final example of displaying anger at work came when I was working with a group of developers in a small office.
My colleagues all preferred to work in the dark with their only lighting coming from their computer screens.
Unfortunately we all worked together in an open space.
While at work, I found myself getting so down.
One day I realized it was because I needed light. I couldn’t work in the dark any more so I spoke up.
A war ensued.
The lights on, the lights off.
Then one day when I turned the lights on and my coworker yelled, "F you!" from across the room.
To make matters worse... he was not only a co-worker but he was also a relative of mine!
At family gathering, I would often see this individual with his wife. We weren’t exactly close friends but we were still family.
Now I have him swearing at me over something so benign as overhead lighting!!
Recently I had the opportunity to meet an author by the name of John R. Stoker, who spoke to me during a television interview.
He gave me a copy of his book, Overcoming Fake Talk, and I agreed to read it.
The book sat on my desk for several months before I found the courage (and time) to read it.
Before actually reading the book, I assumed that the "fake talk" he was referring to was more about lying or being superficial.
What I discover however, was that "fake talk" was really about trying to understand our emotions, especially negative emotions like anger, jealousy, and fear.
There are certain triggers that cause these negative emotions to surface in us that cause us to act out in ways that are outside of our normal character.
Once those triggers are activated, negativity, anger, and blame began to swell deep inside of us. We stop listening and instead start formulating responses when we are given the opportunity.
For me, that trigger was disparaging or belittling comments directed at women... especially mothers... maybe because I was a young mother and I felt those attacks were directed squarely at me.
We’ve all heard the expression... "he’s just pushing my buttons". Well there is now some scientific evidence that this really does occur.
Understanding what our triggers are helps to allow us to control our negative emotions and navigate through difficult situations.
There are two natural responses to our emotional triggers; flight or fight.
Neither gets you what you want. One avoids confrontation and the other escalates it.
Yet there is a third response... one not based on emotion but rather logic.
While one side of your brain is trying to rage out of control, the other side must work equally as hard to keep your composure under fire.
It starts with controlled breathing, allowing more oxygen to flow to the brain, the measured formulation of correct words to express yourself, and the ability to ask questions to clarify and learn rather than accuse or blame.
Being able to control our emotions, even in difficult situations takes hard work and practice.
Even after so many improvements and with so much more confidence I still often find myself reacting in the moment rather than stepping back and assessing the situation in a calm and collected way.
I start recognizing ahead of time when things start to go "below the line" which happens "when individuals are not thinking rationally or are just interested in defending themselves."
When conversations start going below the line or as John describes as a downward spiral, here is one way through: you remain steadfast logical instead of emotional.
With the clarity of 20/20 hindsight, I am now able to look back at my conversational disasters of the past and replay them with new outcomes learning from these mistakes as not to repeat them in the future.
Just like a river guide who sees the color of the water and knows what to do, I start seeing anger as a queue that I’m not communicating well.
And hopefully I can become a guide of at least my own tongue.
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Janet Thaeler is a influencing PR and marketing maven based in Ogden, UT. Her blog can be found at www.newspapergrl.com. Janet wanted to be a newspaper reporter until she learned about the hours and pay so she decided to become a blogger instead. She still reads newspapers.
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Jim Kalb President
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