April 8, 2015

From Screwed to Shrewd


There is such a thing as being too NICE – that is, Nonresistant, Insecure, Compliant and Enduring…in other words, passive. Being kind is very different. That’s more about compassion, empathy and connection to others. But I’m not writing about kindness here. Many of us have felt taken advantage of, been passed up for promotions and partnership opportunities, allowed others to take credit for our work, and said yes when we felt no. We walk away from those disappointing situations with bitter feelings and internal aggression. If we do this repeatedly, we weaken and deplete our power, our position — our person.

The problem is that most people who find themselves in a “screwed” position (especially over a prolonged period) go from being NICE and passive to being MEAN and aggressive. They can’t take it anymore, so they fight back in a Mad, Encroaching, Attacking and Neurotic manner. I see this happening all the time in offices, and I’ve been there myself.

So what’s the solution to this unproductive interpersonal puzzle? How can we prevent ourselves, and others, from being door-mats in one extreme or mad-dogs in the other? Being assertive  — not passive or aggressive — is empowering and energizing, rather than weakening and depleting. It involves being CLEAR – Conscious, Logical, Egoless, Apparent and Real.

Being clear with others requires us to be clear with ourselves about our core values and about our authentic selves. What do we want and what do we stand for? When we speak our truth, immediately and intentionally – in a calm, diplomatic tone, we earn respect. Being shrewd instead of feeling screwed requires us to take 100% responsibility – to remember that we have the ability to respond skillfully to win support.