Do you wish that you had more presence of mind during important conversations?
Do you say things that just aren’t true for you in the moment and then have to revisit a conversation to get your point across?
Do you find yourself strong-armed into doing tasks that aren’t yours because you couldn’t stand in your strength and say NO?
You are not alone. Many clients come to me with these problems, especially those in business situations.
Evan was one of these men. He would leave encounters or meetings at work with the distinct feeling that he had been bulldozed. His aversion to confrontation manifested not only with authority figures but also with peers. This was very telling. It’s one thing to not speak your truth consistently to a bullying boss (although there IS an artful way to do so), but in a peer-to-peer scenario, we have every opportunity to say what we want to say while protecting our dignity.
Giving Away Power
When I explored this phenomenon with Evan, we uncovered the roots of this behavior.
1. Growing up, confrontation always came with a crackdown. So, he often avoided even just the boundary-setting kind of confrontation that people run into several times a day.
2. He didn’t see that setting boundaries was a form of negotiation as opposed to a hostile act that could hurt another or cause an escalation.
3. He didn’t realize that saying a clear “NO” was one of the simplest and most empowering things he could do.
Over the course of several coaching sessions we went to work.
He clearly saw the root cause of his hesitancy and how although it served him well early in his life, it was definitely not serving him well now.
Evan came to embrace the concept of two truths being present when he dealt with someone else – his truth and theirs, both equally worthy of presenting and negotiating. When we role played more complicated versions of this, he really got that no one else was going to present his case, it was his job alone and when looked at as a “case,” it didn’t have to be tied to other more incendiary emotions. He was able to let go of the fear of escalation.
What also helped Evan at this stage was a sharpening of the “what do I want” tool. Like many men, he was so unaccustomed to knowing what he really wanted from moment to moment that when put under stress, feeling, thinking, and voicing what he wanted didn’t happen fast enough. Together, he and I worked with Non-Violent Communication techniques to state his wants clearly and without judgment or accusation.
He also started using the word “NO” in situations where he would normally have given a long explanation to soothe or heal feelings that were never going to be hurt in the first place. Just “NO.” Then breathe. Uncomfortable? maybe. But powerful? for sure.
We worked on subtle practices like when someone is late for a meeting with you and says, “Sorry I’m late” to not automatically just reply with a “No problem” if it actually wasn’t “no problem.” Then we worked up to saying what is true in the moment, giving his internal engine a tune-up against leaks of personal power.
He reported that relationship dynamics at work started to change quickly. He had more power in interactions and was enjoying an energetic spaciousness that hadn’t been there before. He was speaking with his head, heart, and balls all engaged. And most important, he was more effective.
So how about you?
Do you want to stop your personal power leaks?
How would your relationships at work change if you spoke your truth with conviction in the moment?
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