Their Problems are not Your Problems
They say things come in threes. I don’t know why they say that, but they do. For me, today it was three blog posts:
- The first, from Write At Home, with this quote:
- The second, thanks to Debra Moorhead is the garbage truck story, by written David J Polley.
- You can read the story here. Essentially, some people need to dump their garbage, sometimes it is on you.
The third, thanks to one of WOWNDADI’s readers, Galba Bright from Tune up your EQ who had a difficult course attendee to deal with (How To Learn From Your EQ Hot Spots),
In a nutshell, “Thanks for your feedback. I will think on what you said.”
There are people out there with ‘issues’ they need to deal with, just as we have issues to deal with. When they say something nasty or negative, it might not be your fault. In fact, it almost definitely isn’t. It is more about what has happened to them, in the near or distant past, the pressure they are under, and the hurts they are carrying.
People will dump rubbish on you, or use words that wound. When they do, take away the barbed-wire from what was said. Delete the emotional content, sift for actionable feedback, discard the rest. Thank them and move on. Their problems are not your problems. They don’t have the right to change your good mood, let alone to keep you awake at night. That is easier said than done, but it is the truth. If you want to help them, that is great, but don’t expect kindness in return, although you may get it. If they upset you, you are free to shake the dust off of your shoes and move on. If you want to.
Failing all that, this will do your head in and distract you for a bit. I can explain how it works, but then you’d call me a geek.
Ah yes, I know this feeling well. Especially after some of Chinwag Live’s panel sessions when members of the audience are well refreshed and have lost any inhibitions about giving me their feedback. Having said, that, some of the most constructive and strong views have been expressed at the end of the evening.
Some of my recent airport bookshop purchases might prove useful – and one of the writers was a negotiator at the UN (I think), so he should know…
Getting Past No: Negotiating with Difficult People
The Power of a Positive No
The latter book is useful, particularly if you’re not particularly confident in confrontational situations.
Ah… Refreshments! They do seem to result in more ‘unfiltered’ feedback. I’ll check out those two books. My favourite negotiating book is Getting to YES by Roger Fisher. Interestingly William Ury (author of Getting Past No) was the co-author of that – I think they have both done some pretty high level negotiation. I bet they don’t get feedback after refreshments though!
it’s a funny old world………today you posted a nice comment on my blog (thankyou!!) and in approving it, I did what I usually do and clicked on the link to your site to see who you are and what you write about, and apart from your post about offering help (you’ll be getting an email from me soon!) the next post I saw was this one. And you know what? Do you mind if I tell you a wee story here? (I guess if you do you can edit it out!) Every morning since last December I’ve written three pages in a notebook (Julia Cameron’s advice) and this very week it struck me how often I write about two colleagues. I seem trapped in the same frustrating place with them and give them way too much of my head space. It’s all about the title of your post here – I can be having a good, happy day, then along comes one of them with their ongoing problems and dumps their garbage on me…….what a great analogy!
You are absolutely right of course that the best way to deal with it is easier said than done. Still, I haven’t come up with any better solutions. All I’d say is, you have to remember, the garbage truck comes round every single week. Just like Arnie, the garbage truck driver says “I’ll be back!” So, you are likely to end up repeatedly thanking them, shaking the dust off your shoes, and moving on. Again, and again, and again. Any tips for breaking out of Groundhog Day?
It is so very true … particularly if you work in an office. The only way to keep your sanity is to remember that 99 percent of the nasty things that are said to you have absolutely nothing to do with you, they are only mildly related to your proximity to the speaker at the time. Not to give people an excuse to ignore legitimate complaints or constructive criticism, but often times people have no constructive goal in mind other than to try to make you feel as bad as they do.
Thank you Bob and Margie – you’ve made me think further. There are two areas, and I will post on them soon:
1. How we control our own (emotional) response.
2. How we help the perpetrators see what they are doing.
Neither are trivial, but wouldn’t life be better if we could crack them? Bob I like the story. I have had people like that to deal with. It is amazing how people can hijack our mental bandwidth! One thing that helped me was to assume (or pretend that) they actually intended something good and move on quickly. Again, still not easy! What has worked for you?
I”m enjoying the discussion. Perhaps, once we can describe the problem, we’re on our way to solving it. The list of suggested books reminds me that I’ve got Fisher and Shapiro’s “Using Your Emotions as you Negotiate” on my shelf and I haven’t finished. What I’ve read so far is sound and very practical.
You might want to have a look at my 7 Laws of Emotional Intelligence as you explore the issue of emotional control
If your readers want to better understand what happens in the brain when we get emotionally hijacked, go to one of the best blogs I know, http://www.brainbasedbusiness.com
and pop some appropriate phrases in the search box.
I look forward to continuing our dialogue.
Well I try to understand them. Kind of think them into the position of being patients who might consult me. See I’ve never met a patient I don’t have sympathy for. My first goal in every consultation is to try to understand the person without judging them.
I can do that with my colleagues and it does help me, but I’m really making a lot of assumptions in the process cos they are not actually consulting me!
Which leads me to the other downside of that strategy – the second part of a consultation is trying to help the person to change – now there’s the real tricky bit which you are beginning to address in your second point – not just help them see what they are doing but seek to change them.
Yep. That’s the problem. They keep coming back unless they change. And if they have no vested interest in changing then what can you do?
I guess what I’m saying here is that on a day to day basis I can really handle the events. But it’s when I stand back and take a view from up the hill down the glen that I see the same old river running the same old path at the bottom of the same old, well-worn valley. And, that, frankly, is frustrating!
Hmmm… This thread has reminded me that some thinking and writing on dealing with difficult people would help us all! I think there is a whole shelf of books on the topic – I wonder if any are effective?