Changing the energy (without passive aggression)
What do I do when I’m stuck in a meeting with someone who is blocking and undermining me? They might be interrupting, or playing with their phone, being argumentative or dismissive.
Even with the presence of mind to know their behaviour is an indication they are struggling, our natural human defensiveness can make it difficult to respond well. In our latest blog, we explore a practical technique for dealing with the mismatchers and the derailers.
Last time we looked at the magic wand that is unconditional positive regard. This is the idea that everyone (even that “difficult” person) is doing the best they can with the resources they have available.
Ignore the ego
Unconditional positive regard has a helpful twin, called ‘it’s-not-about-me’.
When we take things personally, it’s easy to be caught up in reactive thinking about what we think the “difficult” person is thinking about us.
Instead, consider the possibility that their behaviour is nothing to do with us. They might simply be troubled by the state of their marriage/home/cat/world.
"That’s all very nice," I hear you say. "I have unconditional positive regard, and I know “it’s-not-about-me”. Meanwhile, I’m still stuck in a meeting with someone who is blocking and undermining me."
What do I actual do?
Well, from a less reactive, more connected state of mind, we can start looking for solutions. These solutions will appear in the moment and will be perfectly appropriate to the circumstance. Trust your resourcefulness to come through when it’s needed…
Perhaps it's useful to have some idea of what a more resourceful response might look like - how about this?
Bystanding interventions to shift the energy
In dialogic practice the first sentence in each of these interventions is called a bystand. This means stepping outside of the conversational hurly burly and naming what’s going on. We’ve discussed it before here - it’s a powerful way of interrupting unhelpful conversational patterns.
Combined with an easy and generous solution, a bystand can swiftly shift the energy of the conversation in a way that feels benign, positive and graceful.
What ensures these interventions don’t come over as passive aggressive? They only work if we’re coming from a place of unconditional positive regard while ignoring our ego (‘it’s-not-about-me’).
Simple and not easy
It’s natural and human to be reactive in tricky encounters, and fail to rise above it. If you don’t always manage it, that’s ok. You’re simply being a human.
Don’t beat yourself up.
Instead, keep the mental door open just a crack to let in the possibility of a different response next time. Then see what happens.
As ever, we’d love to know what you think. Have you tried a bystand? How did it work out?
With warm wishes from
The Creative Coaching team
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