Before you try to help someone with a problem, I believe you need to look at yourself first. Do you struggle with the same problem? And if you do, have you taken steps to address it? And in so doing, can you claim even a modicum of success? What have you learned in the process? Such efforts and results put you in the best possible position to help others, in my very humble opinion.
This philosophy enabled me to take on exciting training and coaching opportunities. A current example comes to mind.
For most of my life I’ve pleaded for directness in interpersonal communication. If you had something to say to me, well, I simply wanted you to say it and not sugarcoat it. In turn, I committed to do likewise. In this worldview, silence meant that everything was okay.
I lived under the spell of this myth for many years. Silence in fact did not always mean everything was okay. On the contrary, on more than one occasion. More importantly, I wanted you to be direct with me but in fact only to share good news. Nothing negative or critical, mind you. Just praise me for my many wonderful attributes and outstanding achievements. In contrast, I would right all the wrongs I encountered. I’d point out your foibles and those of others who I encountered along the way. In the process, I would trivialize anything good or positive. And I’d trample on the feelings of those around me.
On occasion, I lashed out verbally. More often than not, I seethed in self-righteous resentment. I would not say what I meant, and I on occasion I didn’t mean what I had said. In other situations, I responded with biting sarcasm and incisive negativity. In short, I had unconsciously internalized an approach I had resisted and abhorred in others.
It took me a long time to identify the aforementioned patterns. I describe them as passive-aggressive as it’s defined as “indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation”—which applies to my behavior and attitude. And now, guess what? I’ve been hired to develop and deliver a Webinar on how to deal with passive-aggressiveness in the workplace. Ironic, eh? I think so.
I approach this assignment humble and grateful. I’ve spent the time and energy to get at the root causes of my past behaviors. As a result, I have had modest success in jettisoning the accompanying beliefs and mindset. Yet I remain vigilant. I must. The detritus of my former passive-aggressive self remains. It’s ready to emerge sometimes when I least expect it. It still doesn’t take much for me to respond sarcastically, or to cast a critical and pessimistic eye towards developments around me.
In short, I must confront and reject my own passive-aggressive tendencies every day. I believe this diligence is essential before I can ever hope to offer any insight to others grappling with the consequences of passive-aggressiveness in their organizations. Here begins my work on the Webinar.