We are surrounded by different personality types. Some individuals we enjoy, while others we struggle to keep our emotions in check. They seem to bring the worst out in us. How do you respond to challenging behaviour?
“If you can cultivate the right attitude, your enemies are your best spiritual teachers because their presence provides you with the opportunity to enhance and develop tolerance, patience and understanding.” Dalai Lama
A married couple reached out to a counsellor seeking guidance. Their union had been strained for some time and they were seeking solutions. The husband says, “if only my wife would change our lives would be better”. The wife says, “our lives would be happier if only my husband changed”.
It’s an unrealistic expectation to demand that others alter their behaviour in order to suit our requirements. Most people aren’t mind readers so it is near impossible for this to occur. We maintain our equilibrium when we accept individuals for who they are, not how we expect them to be.We maintain our equilibrium when we accept individuals for who they are, not how we expect them to be. Click To Tweet
A Tale Of Growth Without A Happy Ending.
Years ago a middle aged man (45) was transferred to the team I was working in. Within days of his arrival, it became apparent that he was treating me differently from the rest of the unit. He would tease and attempt to get a reaction out of me. The first time it happened, I was a little annoyed and uncomfortable. I went home that night rather disturbed, repeating the situation over and over in my mind. However the next morning I woke refreshed and let it go.
Within a two week period the same behaviour had repeated itself on several occasions. He taunted me and I felt shocked with negative emotions surfacing. I was beginning to dislike this man.
I was becoming annoyed and feed up by this challenging behaviour. How on earth was I to perform at my optimum capacity in such an unpleasant work environment? This had to stop! The next time he repeated this behaviour, I responded. I yelled at him. I am not talking a stern warning, the whole office had heard what I had to say.
I was a young adult who had never experienced this type of behaviour in the work place. It becomes blatantly obvious I did not know how to manage the situation properly. His behaviour was out of order, but now so to was mine.
The following morning I thought everything would go back to normal. He knew where my boundaries were, as did everyone in the office. But now he was cold and distant.
That evening I went home disturbed again. It appeared that this guy was to give me no reprieve. Had he not behaved the way he did, I would not have reacted the way I did. I felt as if he was playing the victim and taking no responsibility for his actions.
After a while I accepted that our working relationship was never going to be the same. Once I let go of how I expected this man to behave towards me, my work environment returned to a point where I could once again excel. We would communicate on a professional level, but that was where the line was drawn. I gave up trying to engage with him in other circumstance.
How Could I have Dealt With Challenging Behaviour Differently?
First and foremost we have to acknowledge that people have a pre-set default to a particular kind of behaviour. In other words we have our own unique styles of behaving and interacting in the world.
- The first time he pestered me; I was shocked.
- The second time he repeated the same behaviour, one could be fairly sure that this was part of his character. Although it had only happened twice, no firm conclusions can be made here.
- The third time I was affected by his behaviour, one could presume that this was the way he would continue to conduct himself in my presence.
We all pick up on behaviour patterns with those closest to us. If you have to deliver some bad news to your partner, parents or friends; we generally have some idea of how they will reply. As we have history with these people and shared many factors of life together. When similar circumstances have arisen each individual has dealt with the matter in their own fashion. We pick up on peoples pre-set defaults whether we are conscious of it or not.
This was a great lesson in hindsight. I did not approach this situation as well as I would have done ten years into the future. Our learning processors begin with success or improvement stories. It was only when I learned to take responsibility for my own words and actions that this lesson resurfaced.
How could I have handled it differently? Firstly, I had to acknowledge that his challenging behaviour affected me. My motivation was to stop what I thought was harassment. I should have been looking to create a win-win situation. A suitable outcome would have been that I no longer felt pressured and our working relationship continue in a pleasant manner.
One could be grateful that an opportunity like this presented itself in order for me to grow. When it became apparent that this behaviour would continue,
I could have:-
- had a plan of action ready for when the situation presented itself again.
- requested that I see him in a private room and discussed my concerns. I would never have known the outcome to his response. Read my post on Saying NO, It’s only being assertive, for more information on preparing to address an uncomfortable situation.
- written him a detailed email documenting the situation and how I felt about it.
- sent a copy of this email to my supervisor.
- changed my attitude towards this situation and teased him back (this is a risky approach. As he was blind to how his actions were affecting me, his behaviour could take a turn for the worst).
- ignored him, done nothing and not acknowledged his words.
- spoken with my supervisor and asked for assistance in dealing with the matter. Explaining this man’s attitude towards me was having an impact on my work performance. This would have motivated management in finding a solution.
There are also actions that will not fix the issue, but create additional problems.
I should not have:-
- yelled at him.
- arranged for a group of my friends to wait for him after work with the motivation of beating him.
- cranked called him.
- done anything underhanded or sneaky.
- got a cake and thrown it in his face.
Learn to embrace difficult situations. People have patterned behaviour so we can be sure that another opportunity to grow will be offered down the track.
One of my practiced rules is, if a person disturbs my head, heart or stomach, three times with similar issues, I have no choice but to address situation. Once I become aware of the pattern, I contemplate several options and prepare my strategy. I only have to wait for the situation to present itself, before I take the planned action.
In these times I have become nervous, anxious or even jumpy because I am about to practice a new response. I have no idea how the individual I am addressing will receive my information, however I can’t be responsible for their behaviour.
“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.” Dalai Lama
There are many solutions to one problem. What annoys you may have no baring on me. What I consider an issue, may not have even registered as a concern for you. We can be alerted to areas in our lives that require attention by the way we feel about the situation.
We have two choices when unpleasant feelings arise. Work on accepting the situation or work towards addressing it, when the time is right. If you agree that humans are patterned in their behaviour then you can plan your response ahead of time and put it into practice when the situation presents itself.
The Serenity Prayer captures the heart of the post.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Our energy should only focus on what is fixable”.
Over to you.
How would you have dealt with this situation? Have you been in a similar situation?