Lots of Q’s about human behavior and hard conversations this week. Today I’ll answer a Q I get a lot about how to be yourself with people, especially at work.
On our live call last week, Trina asked how to interact with her COO. I didn’t get to answer it live so here’s my response to her, seasoned with love. :)
“How can I effectively stop projecting negative thoughts about myself onto someone? I think my COO doesn’t like me, and it colors my interactions with him. He’s never said it, but I feel it because of his tone and behavior. Overall, he respects my work, but maybe thinks I’m annoying. No matter how I psych myself up before conversations, I find my mood sours afterward due to his (or my perceived) reception of me. I’ve tried talking with him directly, asking for feedback, and what advice he’d give. Still, I feel endlessly like I’m not doing enough. I’m embarrassed because at my age I know I should know how to deal, but it dampens my mojo elsewhere in life.”
I love this question and more than that, I love Trina. She’s honest. Brave enough to get help even if she’s embarrassed. ALL progress depends on this EXACT moment: when you go through discomfort to get guidance when you actually need it.
The amount of times I’ve been embarrassed right before I had a breakthrough is….mucho.
She’s also self-aware enough to know it’s not only her COO, but her behavior that’s coloring (and possibly creating) her feelings about this situation.
In my opinion, she nailed it.
Humans, definitely the human writing this, often attribute weird or uncomfortable interactions to other peoples behavior, not our own.
I’ve had many conversations go awry believing the other person was kooky.
I’d feel unfulfilled, awkward, and constantly questioned, “Is it me or them?”
Once I saw the “stuff” I brought to the table without knowing – it was a lot of stuff – I realized my own stories colored my conversations, just as Trina described. Turns out I’d been attributing traits to people all over the place; and just as often I was dead wrong.
I got clear on how I showed up and realized other people didn’t stand a chance with me, to interact cleanly with my sack of stories in the way.
For the first time, I saw I’d been the one walking around kooky!
Talk about a wake up call.
But it’s the kind of wake up call that changes your life.
Once I shed light on my habitual ways of being, things improved dramatically.
Don’t blame yourself endlessly or think you’re the ONLY one walking around with stuff; every one of us has it! And you can start cleaning it up right now.
It’s actually shocking how much you can solve by simply taking personal responsibility and not blaming yourself.
NO BEATING YOURSELF UP. It’s such a waste of time.
From a spiritual perspective (your mileage may vary),
how we show up with people is a reflection of how WE feel, not their behavior.
People are mirrors for how we feel about ourselves. Unconsciously, they reflect back to us, whether we like the reflection or not. :) It’s this context that I’m asking Trina to operate from and try on.
You try it on too, especially if you’re questioning yourself in a certain situation.
It’s always best to start with yourself. Identify what beliefs underlie every conversation you have, not only with this person, but with everyone. You won’t know or even be able to feel it, but how you show up colors everything. For example, I used to always strive for significance. On a sub-conscious level I’d think, “How important am I here?” I wasn’t aware of it, but everything I did and said reeked of striving. Coming from this energy makes you nervous and you say and do strange things.
Before you change up your actions, identify first what’s going on for YOU.
This is about YOU, not him.
Your perception of how your COO feels about you is actually how YOU feel about yourself. If it were me, I’d read that 10x. The perception you *think* he has of you is actually your perception of yourself. That’s why it’s upsetting when it’s reflected back. In our own minds, we keep pain at bay, but in the real world, it stings. Times when people thought I was too spiritual or not articulate enough, it wasn’t *them* that felt that way, but how I felt about myself. Even if they DID feel that way, if I had enough self-love or self-awareness, I wouldn’t get so triggered. But I did. At the root level, they brought up my own feelings of inadequacy around those two issues. So it was MY responsibility to own up to that as MY stuff, not theirs.
How we feel about ourselves isn’t real. We make it up to survive and get validation to feel good, i.e. survive. When we don’t get it, it works just as well because it keeps us comfortable and stops us from taking personal responsibility.
Kinda harsh, right? But also exciting. I’d like you to take on getting excited about it. It makes the experience a whole lot better.
Before you attribute feelings of worth, adequacy, or competence to anyone else, start with YOURSELF.
This is about *your* story about how you show up with people. We can’t possibly know exactly how anyone else feels. Really, we can’t.
Remove the shame.
This is always the first right step to solve any problem. Shame is heavy and makes things unworkable. It’s not productive. More importantly, not one of us was taught how to deal with tough situations like this. Certainly we weren’t taught how to work with ourselves powerfully unless we actively sought out the training. Eliminate “at my age” or “I should know this by now” – it’ll save you time and allow you to quickly get into the SKILLS you do need.
Stop trying so hard.
When you find yourself trying a million ways to behave, there’s something larger at play. Look at the root of what’s going on in the relationship, and most of all, within yourself. Any relationship you have to work so hard on means you don’t need more tactics. Trina eloquently puts it, “I endlessly feel like I’m not doing enough.”
She’s right. It’ll never feel like enough. This path is truly the pits.
Stop trying. Literally. Stop everything you’re doing.
The space you’ve created right now is too full of “stuff” to have something new. Clear out your stuff first, then generate a new goal for yourself with them.
Don’t do anything.
I know it might sound painful (it certainly feels painful), but try doing absolutely nothing. Let go of your stories, habits, and assumptions, and see what arises. You might be pleasantly surprised. Or not. Just don’t come in with all the old stuff. Be a clear space for whatever to arise. Observe. They’re used to you acting a certain way and it’s colored their responses to you in the past. Let both of you experience something new, even if it’s discomfort at first.
And remember, what’s YOUR goal in this conversation? How about in life?
If your attitude and feelings are always dependent on OTHERS and their reaction, you’re gonna feel helpless.
Because you’ve given up control. If they validate you, you’re happy. If they don’t, you’re dissatisfied.
Take your power back right now. Don’t think there’s a conversation, person, or moment that is bigger than you are. You have the power to master this situation by first mastering yourself.
Let’s go ninja-friend.