We are programmed to be paranoid. Don’t take offence. It is what kept our ancestors alive when there was the very real risk of a deadly beast hiding behind every rock and tree in the landscape. The thing is, unless you are Calvin from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, you don’t have much need to worry about tigers.
Many of us instead use our paranoid programming to watch out for the colleague or teammate who might be out to get us. Anything and everything they say or do we take as an indication we are under attack. My bet, the assault isn’t really happening or at least it is being blown it out of proportion.
This is a case of perception versus reality. When I do speaking engagements I will often ask, “what is the difference between perception and reality?” Think about that for a moment before you read more. What is the difference to you? I get a variety of answers but this is the one I use: “Perception is what you think. Reality is what I think.” I usually get chuckling in response. But it is true. All of us think we are the only one in tune with reality. The ability to monitor your internal dialogue (the thoughts and feelings going on in your head) will go a long way to making a conversation go smoothly and keeping you as close as possible to the collective reality.
I know you are thinking “how do I have a conversation, listen to the other people involved and monitor my internal dialogue. That’s a lot going on.” That is somewhat true. Now you are starting to see how you might use the silence we talked about last week. But monitoring your internal dialogue isn’t something that needs to be done by thinking in words. It is more about paying attention to your physical reaction to the situation.
What does your body feel like when you are stressed? I know, “feel” is sometimes thought as a dirty word but go with it for a moment. Feeling stressed might mean pressure in your chest, tightness in your shoulders, maybe your heart rate goes up, perhaps you start to feel hot. Figure out what it is for you. Once you know what you are looking for you can start to recognize it and observe why you are feeling that way.
If you start to feel your stress signals happening, asking yourself, “what is going on here? Why am I having a physical reaction?” After you determine what is causing your body to respond (and that isn’t easy) you have to decide if it is something you need to bring up with the team or an individual or maybe is it “your stuff” (topic for next week). If you need to bring it up, when and how.
For this week, think about how you and your team can keep from being ambushed by nonexistent tigers. Create a way to talk about those reactions rather than burying them. Trust me, tigers don’t like to be buried and the attack will be worse later.
Do you have a story about a time you or someone you know thought they were under verbal attack but it turned out not to be the case? What happened? What did it take to get the situation straightened out? Was there permanent damage to the relationship? Tell us about it in the comments!
Next week we will talk about everybody’s emotional ‘stuff’ and how it gets in the way of being our most productive!
Last week’s post Why Silence Is Golden can be found here.