My stuff, your stuff, everybody has stuff. I am not talking about physical stuff we keep in boxes or piles I am talking about emotional stuff. The hurts, complements, slaps in the face and pats on the back that we have accumulated over the years. Some people categorize and compartmentalize it. Others have it scattered all over their emotional space. Most are somewhere in between. Regardless of your emotional filing system or lack there of there are going to be days that someone is going to stumble into your stuff and when they do, watch out!
Here is the really strange thing about emotional stuff: we usually want to blame other people for ours and accept blame for other people’s. It is an odd way to go about life but if you think about it, it happens every day. Anytime someone starts a sentence with “you made me….” or “I did that because…” followed by something someone else did they are passing off their stuff.
Consider the leader who yells at a subordinate and then later says, “I am sorry I yelled but you made me angry.” Putting aside that an “I’m sorry” should never be followed by “but…” The leader is telling the subordinate, “I gave you control over my emotions. You managed them poorly and made me angry.” I don’t know about you but if I was a subordinate in charge of the boss’s emotions anger would certainly NOT be the one I would chose. However, a subordinate is like to walk away from conversation like that thinking “I have to be more careful to not make the boss angry.” The boss packed the emotional box. The subordinate picked it up and carried it out. Energy that the subordinate could use to be productive is now being siphoned off to working on not making the boss mad.
There are two sides to this issue, owning your own stuff and not accepting ownership of the stuff belonging to others.
Owning your own stuff: This seems like it should be pretty simple. They are your emotions. You are responsible for them. But it doesn’t work that way. It is much easier to be defensive, blame everyone and anyone and to walk away feeling morally justified; particularly because feelings are something we never allow to cloud our judgment! (Yeah, right) Clearly it must be someone else’s fault! That is not the case, it is time to own up and take responsibility for what is yours. That is not to say you can’t tell someone how you are reacting to them. Rather than saying, “You did this and made me that!” Try something like “I expected you to follow up on that project. I am very frustrated that it didn’t happen.” Or “I am offended and angry that you arrived at training camp overweight and out of shape.”
When I work with clients on this topic I often provide them with a list of feeling words. Specifically because you can’t own your feelings if you don’t understand them and you can’t explain them to others if you can’t find the words.
Not accepting stuff belonging to other people: This is a tough one too. Accepting blame, fault or just carrying someone’s emotional baggage is a bad habit I see every day. How you handle it depends on your relationship with the person or team involved. If you did the front end team development work and have a common communication fingerprint you can talk to the person about it. Maybe you come to the agreement that you will hold their emotion for a time and then talk about it later. If you have a way to talk about it emotional stuff is just one more thing to maintenance during a conversation.
The more challenging situation is when you are using the black box of communication hoping it will work. If someone is packing their stuff on you and you don’t have a common communication fingerprint you have two options. One – diffuse, “I can tell you are furious about this situation.” Two – protect yourself. If the person simply will not be deterred let them pack those boxes with their stuff, let them vent. Just remember not to take any of them with you when you leave!
Are you a master at accepting emotional boxes from people? Tell us about it. Maybe you are an emotional shipper. What does that look like? Leave us a comment!
Next week’s topic: Having tough conversations -101
Don’t miss last week’s post A Tiger Behind Every Tree!
Tags :bullying, Champion Performance Development, conflict, Doc Robyn, emotional baggage, managing stress, miscommunication, office politics, personal development, personal growth, politics, Robyn Odegaard, team drama, yelling boss