• Losing our cool

    by  • October 20, 2015 • OD and L&D • 0 Comments

    There’s no silver-lining: people can’t be managed. And it will make you angry.

    There’s no silver-lining: people can’t be managed. And it will make you angry.

    A quick explanation: I wrote this blog in early August and decided to shelve it. Then – much to my surprise, a reminder popped on my ToDoIst and said “look at it”.

    Initially, I forgot I wrote this blog, I forgot I set the reminder (thank heavens for productivity apps, they do their job well). Only after I read the below, I realised why.

    The blog below is a product of a difficult emotional state, one that I believe we all find ourselves in at one time or another; that point in a job or a project or a relationship where we get *so* *so* angry, we don’t know what to do with it. Some people walk out. Some people blow up. These are the intense situations that – whether we like it or not – leave a lasting impression on us.

    The content below has not been touched since it was written. It’s a bit ramble-y, but it serves a purpose which is explained later, in the added follow-up at the end.

    Thank you for reading.

     


     

    I have a recurring weekly task on my task list that reminds me to write a blog. More often than not, I already have an idea, because something happened with a colleague or a client or a friend that form the initial sketches of a blog post.

    This week, however, when my reminder popped up, the experience I was wrapped up in was one that initially made me think “ugh… this will make a terrible blog”.

    Then, maybe, I was thinking, that’s why I should write about it anyway.

    Working with people is difficult

    It doesn’t matter what techniques we learn, how much supervision we get, how amazing our support network is. Working with people is difficult.

    People don’t have to be difficult to make working with them difficult, they just have a mind of their own, and will go off and do whatever they please. And sometimes it’s great, and sometimes it’s the very opposite.

    Between misunderstandings and breakdowns

    On a lower end of the difficult scale, are the days when people will misunderstand something, and it will be irritating, but usually resolvable. On a higher end of the scale, they will take things we say wildly out of context or radically interpret of the text which will result in a breakdown. This could be a breakdown of understanding, a breakdown of communication or utter collapse of everything. (Drama queen, I know. Sorry).

    On a good day, they will agree to have a conversation and reach some kind of compromise. On a bad day, they will either dig their heels in, or tattle to a high power that we didn’t play by the rules (when I did! Honest, Miss, I did!!).

    People management is fiction

    You can’t manage people. I hate to get philosophical on you, but people cannot be managed. If you think you’re a great manager, it’s because you managed to create shared common goals with your teams. Or you managed to create a set of priorities that appeals to the vast majority of your people.

    Point is, it isn’t people you manage. It’s goals and it’s priorities and it’s expectations.

    “What’s got into you?!”

    I hear some of you asking. That’s a darn good question, reader!

    What’s got into me? I lost my cool today. I lost it after a very long time of having held it together. I lost it after having fought so hard in my little social-constructivist corner, seeing the world from others’ perspectives. Being empathetic.

    The loss of cool was quite possibly the very opposite of empathetic. And – even though it was done in the privacy of a very supportive forum – an exothermic reaction had occurred, and I got very, very angry.

    And then the reminder to write a blog popped up, and all I could think of was losing it.

    Look past it, woman.

    Yes. I’m an appreciative enquiry kind of gal, and I can get myself motivated through difficult times by finding a goal to strive towards.

    And I have a great goal to strive towards, and I’m holding on to it, but I probably won’t think about it until tomorrow, because I think that there is merit in being angry.

    About wallowing

    It’s probably not productive to wallow for too long, just like it isn’t healthy to bottle up for too long. So here’s a little breadcrumb trail I’m leaving, so I know how to get out of this little hole I’m digging myself into:

    My cool didn’t simply disappear. I was melting slowly while I simmered in deep thought, where I played and replayed what has happened.

    By the end of this, cool was almost gone and replaced by slight seething while focusing on completing pending tasks (an attempt at distraction).

    It then blossomed onto a full-fledged, swearing-ridden conversation with a good friend in which it all came out.

    But right now I’m angry, damn it, and I don’t want to look past it.

     


     

    Further reflection

    Did it feel good writing it at the time? Yes and no.

    Did I need it to maintain my sanity? Categorical yes.

    Spending the time in the un-cool gave me time to get all my snide remarks out. It gave me an opportunity to work through all my sarcasm and cynicism and drama-queen-y-ness. Wallowing in it, almost ironically, gave me an opportunity to purge myself of it.

    Wallowing gave me the time to look unpleasant in the eye and accept that I can be that person; accept it, give it the respect it deserves, and move on.

     

    Lessons learned:

    1. Losing our cool is not a pleasant experience. But just because it feels crappy, doesn’t mean we should avoid it.
    2. Anger is human. [Quick drawing of lines in the sand: this is not a free pass to throw tantrums]. Acknowledging it, for me, is a pass for making room to be angry. And there is appropriate room to be angry.
    3. Don’t get rid of it. Some people can get past it really quickly, and that’s great. Sometimes, though, I think we should wallow a little bit. Get to know the irksome beast that got the better of us. Get comfortable looking it in the eye and asking it questions. And be ready to be asked questions in return.
    4. Go let it out. Find a physical way to distill it out of us. Go for a run. Play a game of football or basketball or something. Go to the gym or do Zumba or Jazzercise. Paint. Play a musical instrument. Scream into a pillow. Chop a salad. Bake bread. Clean the fridge. Change the oil in the car. In this case, this action is worth a thousand angry letters.
    5. Articulate it. Write up what happened and why it made you angry. You may also want to keep it open and get back to it, say, two months later… (you don’t have to publish it, though).
    6. Don’t get angry with ourselves for losing our cool. (that’s just silly and you don’t need me to explain why).

     

    What do you think? Is wallowing in your anger a good idea?

    Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in a comment, and email or over Twitter.

     

    Image credit to Håvard Kristoffersen via freeimages.com.

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