Who’s Ruling Your World? Assholes or Beautiful Souls!

Robert Sutton (2010) officially brought the term Asshole into the business world to describe those I usually refer to as Toxic Individuals.  In his book ‘The No Asshole Rule’ he describes the damage such individuals tend to wreck.  Whether it be at home or at work, Assholes with their domineer and disrespectful ways, cause much harm for others and organisations alike.  Sadly they are increasingly encountered in our society. At the same time there is another kind of individual, those I refer to as Beautiful Souls, who have the opposite effect on others.  Beautiful Souls bring respectful caring to the world. Fortunately we can chose whether we allow Assholes or Beautiful Souls to Rule our World.

In order for us to select who Rules Our World we need to be able to recognise and distinguish Assholes from Beautiful Souls.   Happily it is not hard to do. In order to distinguish them we’ll examine the difference between Assholes and Beautiful Souls in more a detail.  Once we can distinguish them we can select whether Assholes or Beautiful Souls Rule Our World.

Characteristics of Assholes include their overwhelming need to maintain control and they often enjoy observing others suffer.  Indeed they will create situations purely for such enjoyment, without remorse.  They are habitually dishonest, whether it be small twists of truths to serve them or outright lies.  They believe they never make mistakes, thus apologies are not heard from Assholes.  Instead they rapidly and skilfully shift blame for things that go wrong, while easily claiming ownership for others successes.

Due to their selective treatment of others, some people will think a specific Asshole is a wonderful person and find it hard to believe the ‘stories of abusive behaviours’ by that Asshole.  At the same time Assholes persistently leave others, their targets, feeling disrespected and demeaned.  Usually Assholes, at least, believe they have power and or social status over their targets.

On the other hand Beautiful Souls are persistently polite and warm to others, regardless of their social position.  They are those that consistently leave others feeling good, no matter who they are.  Beautiful Souls are respectful, caring, and appreciative which they communicate in their very presence.  In addition they take responsibility for their actions, they are comfortable apologising, are helpful, listen well and are willing to adapt.   When I think of Beautiful Souls I think of Dali Lama.   Beautiful Souls are amazing people who overflow with kindness, authenticity and respect for all.   Unfortunately we don’t see many Dali Lamas in our society.

This shortage of True Beautiful Souls is because as human beings we have a tendency to drop, at least on occasions, into Asshole mode.  This is quite different to True Assholes. Sutton (2010) refers to these individuals as temporary assholes.   Myself I consider them either difficult or challenging individuals.

As Assholes are increasing in number they tend to Rule Our World by default.   To have Beautiful Souls Rule our World requires a conscious choice.  However by selecting Beautiful Souls we increase our health wellbeing and general success in life.  If individual takes on the challenge of being a Beautiful Soul, I refer to them as Beautiful Souls in Training.  And this is where the challenge sets in.  Distinguishing Beautiful Souls from Assholes is quite easy, however in reality we are far more likely to encounter difficult, or challenging individuals and Beautiful Souls in Training than true Beautiful Souls.  Distinguishing them from Assholes is not quite so easy.

Beautiful Souls in Training are those who have consciously chosen to Have Beautiful Souls Rule their World.  They are Skilling Up to improve their self-care, self-awareness, communication and relationships skills so that they are more frequently in Beautiful Soul Mode.  You can recognise Beautiful Souls in Training by their generally Beautiful Soul approach to life.

Beautiful Souls in Training are respectful, open, apologise, express appreciation and usually leave others feeling good about themselves.  However on occasion they slip and demonstrate Asshole behaviours, which they generally regret.  Beautiful Souls in Training realise mistakes are made in the journey of Becoming a Beautiful Soul and accept the slips as part of Becoming A Beautiful Soul.  They do however reflect on how to reduce the slips.  In addition we also have to consider difficult and challenging people.  Those that are not Assholes but at times display Asshole Behaviour without taking on the challenge of Becoming a Beautiful Soul.

Importantly by focusing on the key difference between Assholes and Beautiful Souls, including Beautiful Souls in Training, we can distinguish by the impact they have on others.  Assholes have two effects on others, those they feel worthy see a nice person, while those who are considered below them are left feeling dreadful; while Beautiful Souls leave others, regardless of their status, feeling good about themselves.  And Beautiful Souls in Training are consciously increasing their practice of being a Beautiful Soul thus more frequently than not leave people feeling respected and good about them self.

Now you know the difference between Assholes and Beautiful Souls and the impact they have on others it is time for you to consider Who Rules Your World, Assholes or Beautiful Souls?  If you choose Beautiful Souls you can start by becoming a Beautiful Soul in Training.  This is a foundational choice to make.  We’ll look at this process of Becoming Beautiful a Soul in the next article.

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Life was meant to be enjoyed.

Dr Janelle Sheen

 

Sutton, R. 2010 The No Asshole Rule Piatkus London

 

 

 

 

 

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The Problem with ‘Toughen Up’

All too commonly to ‘Toughen Up’ is to pretend all is well when it is not. ‘Toughening Up’ is to ignore yourself, to deny yourself, to not respond to how you feel or accept that what you think doesn’t matter. This is to disconnect yourself from yourself. To ‘Toughen Up’ in this way is an act of violence. It is to tear your mind, heart and soul apart.

Often others tell you to ‘Toughen Up’ so acts of violence can continue, especially low-level violence. You know when others are rude, mean, and hurtful or disrespectful. Often you are told to ‘Toughen Up’ so you accept these acts of violence as normal and ok. People that behave in ways designed to hurt or disrespect you are carrying out acts of violence. ‘Toughening Up’ in response to such actions perpetrates such violence.

When someone tells you to ‘Toughen Up’ they might be well intentioned thinking that ‘Toughening Up’ is a form of self-protection and a means to strengthen you. It is not. It is weakening you as it tears you apart and creates disconnection at your core. This results in reduced ability to think clearly and respond, that is chose to act in your own best interests in a healthy and respectful way. Instead you are more likely to react, come from your biological flight fight fawn or freeze nature.

There is a way to become stronger, to protect yourself from the harms of such violence. You could choose acts of self-respect instead. This requires you to ‘Skill Up’. To ‘Skill Up’ with self-respect is to protect your self while maintaining self-connection. This means you need to pay attention to your needs and act on them in a nourishing and protective manner.

To respectfully protect oneself is to stay in touch with what is happening with caring and act on that caring with skill.   True sometimes that means to postpone an act of nourishment. Acts of self-protection may require us to postpone nourishment temporarily; they are not about denying our self that nourishment.

The big difference between ‘Toughening Up’ and ‘Skilling Up’ with respect is the act of paying attention to yourself, to acknowledge your need and to act on it effectively. This requires Respectful Communication, the acknowledgement of your need and do your very best to act on your need. This includes and requires developing ones skills to do so, rather than pretend there is no need. If you’re best in any one moment is not overly successful. That is ok. It just means it is time to repair any harm and develop new skills. That is life.

Acts of Respect requires one to feel capable and considerate, exercise self control, and respond in an empowering way. Acts of disrespect can be either reactive acts or planned acts that disempower for the purpose of gaining control.   They are opposite in the power flow and outcome.

Disrespect is to                                          Respect is to

Disregard                                                      Relinquishes control

Act to disempower                                     Pays attention and                                                                                 validates

Attempts to Control                                   Act to empowering

Disconnects                                                  Connects

 

Outcome (and often source)

Feel threatened and insecure                 Feel Safe Capable and                                                                              Considered

 

To ‘Skill Up’ with self-respect is to develop your ability to care for yourself, to pay attention to what is causing pain and act on it in a protective yet not disconnected manner. Some ways to ‘Skill Up’ so you become stronger with self-respect are:

  • Develop and maintain your self connection
    1. Build self awareness and other empathic skills
    2. Implement self care
    3. Be true to your self
      1. Act on your own needs and desires respectfully
  • Develop skills in remaining calm
    1. Meditation
    2. Deep breathing
    3. Releasing stored emotions / triggers
  • Stay curious and exploratory in nature
    1. Continue to learn
    2. Recognise ‘failures’ and ‘mistakes’ as opportunities to grow/ learn
  • Build your self belief and confidence
    1. Implement self accountability
    2. Start small with goals and complete them
    3. Acknowledge and appreciate each of your achievements
    4. Gradually stretch, make your goals more challenging
  • Build your reliability
    1. Speak your truth with kindness
    2. Keep your word
  • Learn to recognise and let go of what you cannot do anything about
    1. Develop your ability to take personal responsibility for your life
    2. Grasp the reality that you can not control anything but yourself
    3. Clearly define your roles and responsibilities and use them to guide your actions
  • Remain hopeful, have a dream that you can realistically move toward
    1. Back to Building Your Self Belief
    2. Remember to do Develop and Maintain your Self Connection

Remember its ok to make mistakes, developing skills is a journey, mistakes are made and they’re for us to learn from.

 

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Self-Determination for Life Satisfaction

Ok I confess for sooo long I lived for others.  Trying to do the ‘right thing’. Trying to keep others ‘happy’.  Even trying to ‘stay out of trouble’.  Well after many many years I have come to accept: no matter what I do there is no ‘right thing’, its not possible to keep others ‘happy’ nor am I able to ‘stay out of trouble’.  The truth is everyone wants something different and it’s just not possible to please others, especially not all the time.

The truth is the only way anyone is going to truly be happy, with his or her life and relationships, is to be self-determined, to live by their own rules and standards. Each person needs to do this for him or herself.  No I’m not saying to ignore others.  That would be disrespectful and wrong in my book.  Nor am I saying stop caring about others and your impact on them.   That would be a breach of my core values of caring kindness and respect.

What I am saying is, it is essential to know what is important to you, and how to look after yourself.   To choose to live in such a way as to fulfil your needs and desires and trust you will find others who are like-minded.

To empower you to live a Self-Determined life here are five steps to being Self-Determined and experiencing greater Life Satisfaction.

First reveal what is important to you.  And I do mean YOU.  Not what you have been told is important.   You might need to give yourself permission to seek out and reveal what is important to you.  If so go ahead.

Now, how to reveal the things that are important to you?  Well think of the things you enjoy doing, the things that inspire you into action.  The things you do naturally and think nothing of.   These are good indications they are important to you.

Second start discovering ways to have more of these things in your life.  Some maybe easy to achieve, perhaps you love reading (OK I do).  So ensure you get to read often, if not every day.  Oh and what you love reading.   I knew a lad who didn’t want to read at all, he was into learning practical skills.  Yet when provided with the catalogues for the local hardware stores reading became a thing to do.  He didn’t love reading but he did love doing practical tasks and discovering the best tools at the best price, which enabled him to get more tools so, he could do more practical things.  Sometimes we do things we don’t love doing simply because they give us more of what we do love doing.

Other things will not be so easy.  For example I love empowering others.  Facilitating them learning things they want to learn and enabling them to do more of what they want.   This takes more skill and positioning.   So I work on that, knowing I am increasing the chances to do so magnificently.

Third consider the type of person you want to be?  What qualities do you want to uphold?  Perhaps you want to be an explorer?  Yet the very idea is overwhelming.  Ok, so consider something small you could explore.  The local parkland.  The best place to find magnificent coffee or hot chocolate.  Then go do it.  As you build confidence in practicing this activity you will find it easier do it more.   Do you want to be seen as a caring person?  What would that look like how would you enact it.  Do it?  Think of a number of qualities, select one and work on that until it is part of you.  Then choice the next one and continue on.

Fourth consider the type of person you want to hang out with.   Do you want to hang out with people that are supportive kind considerate?  What would these people be like, what actions would they take?  Look for them and spend more time with the people who act this way.   Spend more time with people you enjoy.

Fifth consider your long term desires.  What do you want to be known for?  What are the dream things you’d like to do?  Yet are currently out of reach.  List them and start developing plans for achieving these and then start actioning the plan.  Small steps are still steps.  Often once on your chosen path amazing things happen and you find you achieve your desires sooner than you expect.

Follow these five steps and see what a difference they can make to the quality of your life.  Remember this is not about being disrespectful of others.  It is important to consider others, practice caring kindness while enhancing your life.

It is about being respectful to yourself.

How to do both at the same time???  That is another blog for sure.

Janelle

 

 

Connection for Better Conversations

So when was the last time you had the experience of attempting to talk with someone and feeling that they just were not listening!  You know, the feeling of disconnect.   Perhaps it was obvious their thoughts are else where, or their replies just didn’t relate to what you said.   Maybe you just sense it despite their apparent attention.   Whatever way it happened it didn’t feel so good, did it?

Maybe it was you disconnecting.   I know I did it just the other day.  I was driving along, having a conversation when I needed to pay more attention to the road; as a consequence the conversation lost my attention completely.   ‘Sorry ‘ I said, ‘I had to concentrate on the road’ ‘That’s Ok’ they said, ‘I understand’.   Or as often happens when I arrive home, worn out, unable to provide much attention to the requests then made of me.   ‘Sorry’ I said, ‘right now is not a good time I need to rest a moment’.

Disconnection in conversations is part of life.  Something we need to embrace as a part of reality.  If we don’t we are likely to feel a lot of pain from a sense of rejection.  Perhaps forgetting we do it too.  Whatever reason disconnection occurs it prevents satisfying conversations and effective communication.

The thing is that today, Facebook and phones, computer games and TV shows, not to mention movies, are adding to reasons we are taken away from the important task of conversing.  The natural occurrences of disconnection are escalating, possibly out of control.  The result. Well, increased feelings of isolation, rejection and loneliness.  These not only feel terrible, they also have a detrimental affect on our relationships, as well our physical and psychological health.

So how about we turn the tide?  Increase connection, have better conversations and enhance our relationships and heath as a consequence.  Here are six fairly easy steps we can all take.

  • Set aside time for conversations.

Put aside all distractions and potential distraction for the time.  There is very limited truth to the idea of multitasking.  You can only fully focus on and give proper attention to one thing at a time.  Respectful communication requires proper attention.

  • Smile and use gentle eye contact.

A genuine smile with gentle eye contact supports the provision of a safe space inviting your conversation partner to partake.  Oh and I do mean a genuine smile. You know the ones that come from inside and light up your eyes.

  • Give your conversation partner your full attention.

Focus on being present, in the here and now and being really with them.  This empowers your ability to partake in Respectful Conversation.  Providing full attention intentionally and regularly helps overcome the times you are disconnected due to natural moments of distraction.

  • Listen deeply.

So what are they saying?  And not just their words listen to their tone and observe their actions as well.  What are they saying at these levels?  Remember it is best to enquiry and clarify, than assume you have heard them accurately.  After all we interpret their message and could get it wrong.

  • Respond to what they say, appropriately.

Respond from your heart, not your head. All too often we spend time thinking of what to say rather than listening deeply and responding respectfully.   Thinking about what you are going to say, when they are speaking, draws attention away from them undermining your ability to truly hear them.   Then take the time to consider the kindness of our reply.

  • Enjoy 

Did I mention the importance of relaxing into the moment and enjoying the conversation, the genuine connection with another?   Really this is the first and the last point.  Every moment in between will be so much more effective and valuable if you remember to relax and enjoy the incredible time you are connecting and sharing with another.

Here’s to turning the tide and increasing more daily connection with others in conversations.  It will definitely enhance your communications, relationships and life satisfaction.

Want to learn more?  Practice your communication skills?  Check out my latest events in Melbourne

 

Distinguishing Controlling and Cooperative Communication

Previously I distinguished Challenging, Difficult and Toxic Conversations within that article I mentioned the importance of learning to distinguish between Controlling and Cooperative Communication.  Doing so is the first step in managing any level of difficult conversation.  It is also the first step for improving your own communication style and thereby quality of life.

First it is important to understand that all our communication is designed for us to achieve something we want.  That is what communication is about.  We want, food, connection, information, a task performed.  We communicate with others to achieve our desire, fulfil a need.  There is nothing wrong with this. It is why we communicate.

At the same time there are different mindsets and intentions behind how we go about achieving our goal fulfilment.  How we communicate.  These different mindsets and intentions have contrasting impacts on those involved in each communication interaction.

Controlling Communication creates harm, psychological, social and physical. In addition it damages organisations and productivity within them.

Alternatively Cooperative Communication builds trust, supportive relationships, life satisfaction, physical and mental health and mutual satisfaction and productivity.

Controlling Communication is the communication style that is dominant in our society.  It is what most of us have been taught.  It is foundational to the hierarchical system that promotes a shortage of resources and means we have winners and losers.  Some individuals get what they want.  Others compromise to settle with less than they want.  Others still simply go without, either by choice or by fear or a sense of helplessness induced by actual or perceived threats.

In the worst case Controlling Communication is designed for the perpetrator to achieve their desired out come with no regard to anyone else’s needs or desires.   Others are simple tools to be used.  In the best case the individuals involved don’t know better communication strategies to achieve their desire.  They accept this is how it is, despite wishing there was a better way.   While in between we have those who may or may not know better strategies, but are living in fear that stimulates self-protective measures that result in the use of controlling strategies.

It is unfortunate that Controlling Communication is what most of us have learnt and use on day-to-day bases.  It is having a negative impact on our lives, it can be seen in the increase in violence as well harm to our mental and physical health.

Due to the recognition of the harm of controlling communication especially in the forms of bullying, harassment, manipulation and verbal abuse these strategies are accepted as inappropriate.  This is the first step in communication transformation and a wonderful thing.  However breaking the pattern of this communication style is still a challenge.   It is seen almost everywhere, at schools, our work and in our homes.  Often the strategies are so dominant they are accepted as ‘normal’ and thus continue.

Controlling Communication is any communication where force is used, where someone is going for his or her outcome without regard for others desires and needs and or, there is an element of a lack of choice.   The idea that we must do this or that, that we have no choice is frequently accepted in our society.  All too often it is more because we are well trained than it is the actuality.  We all have more choice than we realise.  Though admittedly our choices are not always easy to see, let alone enact.

Cooperative Communication is when everyone’s needs and desires are put on the table and considered.  Compromises are avoided big time.  Everyone matters and there is a belief it is possible for all to achieve their desire.  This can take creativity to find a suitable outcome or even acknowledgement that there is a mismatch, a mismatch simple means moving on to another potential source for fulfilment of the desire.

As Cooperative Communication is new for many of us, this means we need to learn new strategies and develop the skills in their use.  Fortunately there is increasing research demonstrating more effective communication strategies, showing a path forward.   If you desire to have more fulfilling relationships, more life satisfaction, health, wellbeing and productivity it is time to consider developing your skills in Cooperative Communication strategies.

 

 

 

Recommended reading. The first book I read on the topic and a great introduction to the difference between controlling and cooperative communication.

Evans, P 1996 The Verbally Abusive Relationship Adams Media Corporation Holbrook Massachusetts

Forget “Forgive and Forget” its Wrong!

To forgive and forget implies we forgive someone his or her transgression(s) or mistake(s) and then let it go.  This is how transgressions and mistakes reoccur and can easily lead to escalation of the issue.  If you want growth and development this is wrong!  Especially as there are constructive alternatives.

The appropriate alternative depends on the situation and individual’s roles and responsibilities within the relationship.  To select the most appropriate response to a transgression it is important to consider the type of relationship, the individuals’ awareness and ability to meet the expectation, as well as situational requirements.

First start with the relationship.  Clarify is it an equitable relationship, where individual’s are considered to have equal power and input?  Or is a hierarchical one, with positional power differences?

In the case of true equitable relationship then the first, as always, step is to check if the expectation being transgressed is clearly articulated and agreed upon.

There is no way of getting around the reality that most, if not all, individuals are not mind readers and we can only live up to and reasonably be held accountable for expectations we are clearly aware of.  Thus if expectations in an equitable relationship are not clearly articulated and agreed upon doing so is the first process that needs to be carried out when a transgression has occurred.

To clearly articulate each expectation, it needs to be considered from the point of view of it being realistic.  It is not realistic to expect someone to go without food for a week.  It is not realistic to expect someone to do tasks they don’t have the ability to do or aren’t clear of what the task requirements are.  That is the expectation needs to be doable and clearly described.  Does everyone know what is required and have the ability, personal knowledge and skills to do it?  Do they have a supportive system and environment?  Do they have the required resources?

When any of these are not fulfilled then ‘Forgive and EMPOWER’ by enhancing the system, providing the resources and develop the required knowledge and skills.

Finally is the expectation really agreed upon?   Is it necessary to negotiate or renegotiate the agreement or adjust the expectation so all parties really agree. Full agreement empowers individuals’ to live up to agreements and expectations.

In the case of hierarchical relationship its important to fulfil and then go beyond these steps.  It is important to be aware and remember those who are in positions of power are responsible for the wellbeing and development of those in their care.  Yes in their care.

If you are in a position of power it is not simply a matter of saying ‘do this because I say so’.  It is a requirement that you enable those you have a position of power over, those who you are responsible for, are able to do the tasks that they are required to do whilst maintaining their wellbeing.  Occupational Health and Safety Laws so say!   You are responsible for their safety and wellbeing.

If you are in a position of power you are responsibility for ensuring those under your command are able to do the required tasks.   This means: clarity of expectations, the tasks and timelines; provision of the required resources, including systems, materials and time; and development of required knowledge and skills; training.  This is a foundational responsibility of positional power roles, whether as a parent, supervisor, manager or CEO.  This means when transgressions occur the person with greater positional power needs to ‘Forgive and EMPOWER!  Not forgive and forget.

Start by considering the reason for the transgression.  Is it due to lack of ability, inadequate system support, inadequate resources, knowledge or silks, or perhaps a combination?

The person(s) with lessor power have the responsibility to ‘Forgive and Learn’, to EMPOWER themselves.

Finally it is also important to consider the possibility of a mismatch?  That is if an individual doesn’t match the requirements of the role and appropriate development is not realistic.  In which case adjusting the team, partnership, maybe the most appropriate alternative.

In short when a transgression has occurred take into account the type of relationship and roles and responsibilities within the relationship.  Consider the ability to meet the expectation and empower to enhance the ability to meet it where possible.  In this way to ‘Forgive and EMPOWER’ promotes growth and increased satisfaction within relationships.  Rather than continued transgression, with possible escalation, that commonly results from forgive and forget.

Distinguishing Challenging, Difficult and Toxic Conversations!

Reading about ‘difficult’ conversations or people can be quite confusing.  This is because the term is used too broadly.  By that I mean the topic covers a broad range of conversation types.  I break difficult conversation into four distinct types.  It is important to distinguish them, as they require different communication and self-protection strategies in order to have effective communication.

The first type is what I refer to as the ‘Challenging Conversation’.  I bet you have had a few of these.  This is when you, or the other, are emotionally aroused, specifically to the point where you can no longer think effectively.   You know that time your emotions got the better of you and well, quite frankly it didn’t turn out too good.   After all you are usually a really caring and considerate person, but in this case…   The two key characteristics of challenging conversations are emotional overload and infrequency. That is, the upset person is usually cooperative and considerate.

The second is when this this type of reaction and other uncooperative communication strategies have become habitual.  At some level you care, but well these techniques, for one reason or another, work and you don’t have a better way to achieve your intention. Such techniques include carrying on, intimidating, asserting your right, manipulating or some other means of control.  Alternatively it might be that you are just too tired or stressed out to do anything else.

On the other hand perhaps you are trying to figure out how to have decent conversation with someone like this and are getting nowhere.  In some way it is accepted that ‘power over’ conversations are, well, the ‘way it is’ even if we don’t like it.  Or perhaps you don’t even realise this is what is going on.  This is what I call the ‘Difficult Conversation’ habitually it ‘sort of works’, short term anyway.   However it would be nice if there was a better way.

Finally we come to the ‘Toxic Conversations’.  I break ‘Toxic Conversations’ into two groups.   One group has accepted the use of ‘power over’ or ‘controlling’ conversations as the best way to be.  This group has decided to use power over communication, whether consciously or not.  This is different to ‘Difficult Conversations’; where it is habitual practice, however change is a possibility.  There is openness to improving communication skills.  In the ‘Toxic Conversation’ that is not the case the ‘power over’ and ‘controlling’ communication strategies are accepted as ‘best practice’.

The second type of ‘Toxic Conversation’ is with people who are biologically quite different; there was no real choice or decision on their part.  They are just that way.  They don’t care about anything but their own satisfaction.

It is really important to recognise the different conversation types, as you need to use very different communication and self-protection strategies for each type.  If you use the wrong strategy it can cause more harm than good.  And this is happening all too frequently, as many individuals’ aren’t aware of the different communication styles.  Let alone how to distinguish them.

Note I consider it important to use the word ‘conversation’, rather than ‘people’, in our day-to-day life.  This is because as we are usually so poorly taught cooperative and constructive communication skills we often find foundational conversations ‘difficult’.  I refer to discussing certain ‘topics’, differences of opinions and perspectives, providing feedback and accountability conversations.  These types of conversations are not difficult within and of themselves, once we have the skills.  This means there is a potential that a ‘conversation’ is ‘difficult’ related to our skills rather than the ‘other’. Worse if we decide it is ‘them’ we feel justified in doing nothing; we can blame ‘them’. This doesn’t help.  Change is within our own hands.

As a consequence while it is important to learn to make the distinctions between the types of difficult conversations it is also important to maintain personal responsibility and empowerment.   Thus for starters I recommend one learn

  • To distinguish between cooperative and controlling communication strategies.
  • Get comfortable with all your emotions so you can recognise emotional overload from a controlling strategy.
  • To consider if you are the ‘difficult’ individual in the conversation.
  • Consider what your current communication skill level is and more specifically are you operating within it?
  • To extract yourself from any conversation that YOU are finding ‘difficult’ in order to consider what YOU want to achieve in the conversation, if indeed you want to have it.
  • To select your environment and the people you spend your time with.

I will address each of these points in future articles.

Responding to accusations of being a Bully!

The 10th of October is Mental Health Day!

Thus now is an ideal time to consider the issue of bullying.

Anti-bullying campaigns are everywhere these days.  And rightly so!  Bullying has a significant negative impact on mental health and numerous other aspects of life. However the anti-bullying programs appear to be lacking in effectiveness, as bullying is still a major issue for our society.

Part of this relates to issues around the commonly used definition of bullying which makes it relatively easy for ‘bullies’ to get away with their actions.  I suspect the intention behind the issues is to protect people from inaccurately being accused.  It is more effective to discuss what you can do when accused of being a ‘bully’ and you genuinely are not one?

The Australian Human Rights Commission (2017) states:

‘Bullying is when people repeatedly and intentionally use words or actions against someone or a group of people to cause distress and risk to their wellbeing.  These actions are usually done by people who have more influence or power over someone else, or who want to make someone else fell less powerful or helpless.’

The major issue with the definition when it states to intentionally…cause distress and risk to their wellbeing.  This is purely because individuals say  ‘I didn’t intend to distress them or risk their wellbeing’  ‘I did not intent to bully’.

As a result, too often, they get away with inappropriate behavior.  Individuals involve rarely intend to be a ‘bully’.  They don’t want the label.  And often there is no intent to ‘do harm or risk wellbeing’, simply because the idea may not have cross their minds. They are not thinking about the other at all.

What they are thinking of and do intend is to ‘have their own way’.  The do intend to use fear to gain control over others.  They do intend to use their, actual or perceived, position of power to ensure what they want is achieved.  They may intend to ‘get back’ at the perceived injustice that someone ‘would not go along with their wishes’ or ‘made them look bad’, for having done a perceived wrong.  These are the intentions of a ‘bully’.  These intentions result in the intimidating and coercive behaviors that cause the distress and risk to wellbeing.

Another, more useful, definition of Bullying is:

‘the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others. The behaviour is often repeated and habitual. One essential prerequisite is the perception, by the bully or by others, of an imbalance of social or physical power, which distinguishes bullying from conflict (Juvonen, J. Graham, S., 2014).

Fully fledged bullies, while denying they are bullies, know they are doing the wrong thing.  Their timing and sneakiness indicates this.  They behave differently in front of others, especially those they perceive as having more power than themselves.  They hide and actively deny their actions.   Yet they believe they have the right to do as they do.

At the same time it does happen that people feel they are being bullied, treated inappropriately, when it is genuinely not intended.   Yet regardless of the intention when it is experienced as bullying the same negative impact can occur and it is important to deal constructively with the incident.  These situations maybe because:

The accused has poor relationship or communication skills or

The target’s individual perspective

Resulting in misunderstandings.

This reality highlights the need to remember that ‘Bullying usually is a relationship issue and thus relationship solutions are recommended’ (National Centre Against Bullying, 2017).  At the same time there is a limit to the potential effectiveness of relationship solutions.

If there is no mutuality in the relationship discussing the issue in the relationship is not likely to work.  Too often it only makes things worse for cooperative individuals. Someone who believes they have rights of dominance may ‘go along’ with the ‘orders’ from the higher power, but they are also likely to find another way to achieve their intention.   This escalates rather than resolves the issue.   In such cases further protective action is required on behalf of the ‘other’ or ‘target’.   These situations are not the focus of this article.

Today we look at when there is no intention of bullying, or harm, or force and there is respectful mutuality in the relationship.  In these situations the way to respond to accusations of bullying is very simple: Listen and then ADDE value.

You need to Listen to the accusation and accept that is the others experience, despite your intention. Respond to their experience.

Apologise this lets the other now you didn’t mean for them to experience what they did. This action also reminds you that you have made a mistake and need to take corrective action, even if it was only to increase awareness of the others perspective.

Demonstrate your good will by reassuring the other. This includes: addressing their concerns; explaining your intention; where appropriate explain the policies and procedures you are following; and ask for and carry out suitable actions to repair the harm. It may take time to build or rebuild trust.

Discuss the situation until both parties are clear and comfortable with the intention of the communication and relationship.

Enhance your skills in order to prevent a similar situation occurring again. It is very important to follow through. Where required, ensure skill development occurs.

If you have been accused of being a ‘bully’ first be honest with yourself, do you think you have the right to dictate to others?  Or perhaps you have a right to ‘get even’?  Do you treat those you perceive as having more power than yourself differently to those who you perceive to have less power than yourself?   If neither of these is the case and your intention is for a mutually respectful relationship, an appropriate response to an accusation of bullying is to Listen and ADDE value.

 

Australian Human Rights Commission NA What is bullying? https://www.humanrights.gov.au/what-bullying-violence-harassment-and-bullying-fact-sheet accessed 8th October 2017

Juvonen, J.; Graham, S. (2014). “Bullying in Schools: The Power of Bullies and the Plight of Victims”. Annual Review of Psychology. Annual Reviews. 65: 159–85. PMID 23937767doi:10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115030.   Via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullying

National Centre Against Bullying Definition of Bullying https://www.ncab.org.au/bullying-advice/bullying-for-parents/definition-of-bullying/ accessed 8th October 2017

 

Living Your Values

These days there is a lot of talk about living your values.   How to live them is less discussed. Today I will share with you four keys to being able to live your values effectively.   Living your values is the most powerful way to communicate them to others.

To live your values effectively you first need to identify your personal values.

That is, what is important to you, not what others tell you is important. I repeat, what is important to YOU. What is it that matters to you the absolute most? What is it that makes life worth living for you? Select one, two or three things that you would be willing to give your all for.   What brings joy into your day?

For some people a value could be a principle such as honesty.   For others it could be groups or interactions for example their family. Yet others may find a practice or object could be what does it for them, perhaps they live for vintage cars or to play tennis.   Naturally a combination of values is common.

Next you need to be able to describe your values in a behavioural or objective manner. That is so that they can be recognised, especially, but not only, by you. What does the value look like when in action? This allows you to identify the actions that you need to take to be living in alignment with your values. For example if you value being a tennis player what level do you want, what skills do you need to learn?

One-way to identify your values is to look at what you already do, or intend to do, with your whole being.  Another is to look at others that you admire and clearly state what it is that they do that you admire.

Once you have identified at least one value and what it looks like you have the foundation for beginning to implement it in your life, to live it effectively. This could easily require you to change habits you currently practice and overcome obstacles in the way.

Living your personal values is not only practicing the required actions.

It is also important to be able to protect and nourish your ability to practice your values. For this it is necessary to consider the things that make it difficult to practice.  For example if honesty is something you value, yet you find you instinctively become protective and less open around some people.   This might mean that you need to consider who you spend your time with.

Practicing your values is more than saying I value this.

You also need to practice, protect and nourish them.

On the journey to living your values effectively you may find your values change or are refined.   Perhaps your true values simply become clearer for you as you live them day-to-day.

Living your values effectively allows you to communicate your values in your actions, be recognised for what is important to you, draws in others who also value what you do and as a consequence you get to live a fulfilled life. Enjoy!

The Power of Self-Determination

The Power of Self-Determination is in its role to support you in creating the life you want to live.  It is the most effective way to have a fulfilling and successful life.  Self-determination provides you with personal direction and protection.

To live a self-determined life it is necessary to take full ownership of your life.

This requires you to be willing to and to take responsibility for what you do, the impact you have on others and be held accountable for the consequences.  It requires you to know what you, as an individual, want, and how to achieve what you want.  Alternatively know how to gain the knowledge and skills to do so.

This in turn requires self-awareness and effective innermost communication.  That is the ability to recognise, understand, and act on your core needs, preferences and dreams, authentically and respectfully.  Self-determination provides direction by knowing what you want and how to action it so you can live your life for your personal satisfaction.

This does not mean life will be prefect and beautiful all the time.  Life challenges will still come your way.  There are many things none of us can control or determine.   So an important aspect of self-determination is recognising that we can’t control things outside our self.  We can take actions to protect ourselves, and influence what is happening outside our self, however unpredictable or unconsidered things and challenges will occur.

Self-determination embraces the unpredictableness of reality and accepts it is about how we respond to the unexpected that is important.   Accepting things and learning how to manage the challenges of life is another important aspect of self-determination.

The opposite of self-determination is when we are controlled and directed by others.   When we allow others to make decisions for us we have given our power over to them. There are those amongst us that are happy with this choice.  After all we are taught to do this.  If you are happy with your life all is well.

If however you aren’t so happy, content or satisfied with your life it is up to you to reclaim your life.  Make fresh decisions and claim ownership of your life, become self-determined such that you are experiencing a life that is more fulfilling for you.  It may not be easy, however it is possible to create a life you want.

You could blame others, and yes you could attempt to hold them responsible for what has happened.  Yet how does that serve you to become more self-determine?  To have a more satisfying life.   The truth is it doesn’t. It passes the buck[1] and gives you a reason for staying where you are.  It prevents you from being in control of your life and many will take advantage of this.

If you choose to live a self-determined life you have a valuable tool for reducing experiences of others taking advantage of you, having negative impact on you or controlling your life.  This is because when you clearly define yourself it provides you with a strong protection from the impact of others’ redirecting you, labelling you, as well as any attempts to confuse you.   The last two tactics are commonly used to make you more vulnerable to abuse.  Clearly defining yourself is the foundation for the development of skills for dealing with challenging and difficult people.

While self-determination is powerful for protecting us from others it is important to remember that we are dependent on our relationships, we need constructive relationships for a satisfying life.   This means it is important to care for your relationships in order to care for yourself.  Thus respect for yourself and others is essential to living a self–determined life.

Unfortunately many of us are not taught how to practice self-determination effectively. That is to make decisions and implement actions that fulfil our personal needs, practicing self-respect, while being respectful of others and their needs.  It is important to realise it is never too late to begin reclaiming your life.  I believe the act of self-determination is a process and that we develop continuously through out life, if we so choose.

Living a self-determined life will provide direction and pathway for a fulfilling life by knowing what you want and how to achieve it.  It means you embrace the unpredictableness of life and recognise it is how you respond to life that matters.  It also means you are accountable for the consequences of your actions and you have the ability to learn and adapt in order to meet your needs and challenges.  Self-determination also provides protection from others while being respectful. Self-determination provides you with personal direction and protection.  This is a very basic human right and responsibility.   To me being and becoming more self-determined is an important part of this journey we call life.

To learn more consider the up coming Power of Self-Determination Session and or Inner Most and Self-Determination course.

[1] Holding others accountable is important; this is different to passing the buck. Understanding the difference is important.