Fitness Challenge: Mental health is just as important as your physical health
In continuing with my Fitness Challenge – Mental Health and Fitness theme – I decided today, to focus on how to deal with difficult situations and people. Most of you know by now that I work in an office type of job. And I have been in this line of work for nearly twenty years. In the past few years, I’ve really focused on building on my coaching skills and taking as much professional development as possible. I look for courses that can help build on personal skills that I can apply in daily life and at work.
Every time that I am faced with a challenging person or difficult scenario, I am reminded of some advice that a boss gave me to a few years ago. The advice was LIFE changing and I often apply it in my personal world. I hear her voice inside my head every day. It’s something that I will never forget.
How does this apply to mental health and general health you might be asking yourself? There is a method to my madness.
Dealing with stressful people and situations at the office can take its toll on your mental health. Dealing with other people’s quirks and unrealistic expectations can stress you out. I speak from real life experience. A lot of it.
While I’ve learned that this approach doesn’t necessarily work in all situations – I can’t tell how you much it has helped me when dealing with difficult people at work or in general. It has helped reduced some stresses in life that you just don’t need.
You can’t change who people are – but you can change how you REACT to them.
A few years ago, I was having an extremely difficult time at work. A new boss had been hired into an executive position and work became very – “challenging”. Let’s call her the Exec. I went from having one boss that I really got along well with and who was very supportive of me, to having three bosses who required my full time attention.
Suddenly, I was doing the job of three people – at the lowest pay possible. They refused to even grant me acting paying even though I fully deserved it. I knew my rights and fought for it- but there was nothing I could do about it. If I wanted to keep my job, I knew that I had to keep my mouth shut. And I couldn’t afford to not have work.
I had been at the job for nearly year with zero performance issues. And all of a sudden, my 100% wasn’t 100% anymore. It was considered “sub-par” and I “needed improvement.” All the way down to – “I needed more training.”
And at my lowest point – I feared that I would lose my job. I was seriously considering going on stress leave. That’s how awful things had become.
The thing is – I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I was performing way above my pay grade. The exec that I was working for was high maintenance and would change her mind on a whim. And with having three bosses, I found that each had a different management style and I often like I was being pulled in all directions.
How is an employee expected to meet expectations when the employer can’t make up their mind on what those expectations are?
There was one particular afternoon – I was having a really bad day. I sat down in my director’s office. And I broke the cardinal sin. The one rule that everyone tries to avoid breaking.
And it wasn’t just “sniffle sniffle” – I ugly cried.
I had reached my breaking point and I knew that I couldn’t carry on anymore. Not at that pace. Not at that level. Not with three very different personalities demanding 100% of my attention. (I can talk about this now – I no longer work with these people).
My #1 boss, the director, and still one of my favorite people to this day, did exactly what I needed her to do. She listened to me. She listened to everything I had to say – she really, truly, listened to me.
At the end of it, she stood up and gave me a hug.
“Look, I know you’re having a difficult time. But I’ve got your back,” she said.
“You can’t change who people are. You can’t change how she is. But you can change how you react to her.”
We chatted a bit more and she offered some more sage advice. It was probably one of the most rewarding discussions I had ever had. I sat back in my chair and looked pretty much like Chandler does above. I was stunned. If only I had been given this gift before.
Life could have been so much simpler.
Here are some tips she offered to me. So this is really, second hand advice you’re receiving today. But it’s pure gold.
- When asked to do a simple task, “No problem” or “Right away”
- When given vague instructions that require clarification rather than send multiple emails back and forth – just pick up the phone and call. Or ask if they can call you.
- Just don’t email back and forth. Short, simple answers, yes or no. Or call her.
Still confused? Don’t worry. It took me awhile to get the hang of it. And trust me – when I did – well, dealing with the impossible suddenly became – enjoyable. Her opinion of me changed.
Remember – the only thing that I changed was the way I responded to her. By the end of that quarter – the exec was actually supportive of me. She would actually come to me in times of stress for assistance. My, how times had changed.
It took some trial and error to finally figure out how to respond to her. But once I got the hang of it – things fell into place naturally. I also learned that giving her options made her feel like she was a little in control. Even though she wasn’t in complete control, she felt like she was.
Giving her that little bit of false control back – changed everything for us. I wish I had only known how to do this when early on. Now – I know better and I have adopted these simple principles into my daily life.
I can tell you that most of the stress in my life disappeared once I learned these tricks. Sure, there is still work stress and financial stress – but stress caused by people in my life? I’ve figured out how to deal with that. And I’m a happier person for it.
Personal life and dealing with difficult people
I’ve learned to handle messages and emails from abusive people as well in my personal life. We all have those people in life who think they are the most important thing. They expect you to drop everything you’re doing and focus only on them. And the one time you actually stand up for yourself – you’re suddenly an asshole or bitch.
I have someone in my life like this. And I’ve learned NOT to respond to her when she gets like this.
You can also choose NOT to respond. That’s right. You have every right to not to respond to someone who is rude or belligerent. We all deserve to be treated with respect. And if someone can’t extend you the same decency – you have every right to deny that person your time and attention.
When that person is your boss – things can get messy. But what I’ve done in my personal life is this.
End the conversation.
Don’t even bother with a response. I find that after waiting a few days that person will either forget what they said to you – or will have realized that they were in the wrong. This used to happen all the time with someone in my life. I actually can’t remember the last time we had a blow because I stopped responding to her when she became abusive. I would just drop the conversation because I knew she was looking for a reaction.
Sometimes – people want you to respond. They know that what they say will get a reaction out of you. And they know what triggers those reactions. They know that they can push certain buttons to get you going. It’s a game to them. And they thrive off it.
Deny them the pleasure. Just choose not to react. Don’t give them that control or power over you.
Don’t expect apologies
Don’t expect these people to apologize. They almost never do. They may know that they’re in the wrong with the way they treat you but they will never admit it. They will not admit that they are at fault. They will not own up to their behaviour. In some cases, they might even turn things around on you, so you are apologizing to them.
It’s their issue – not yours
Remember – that when dealing with difficult people, the issue is mostly theirs and not yours. People who are generally unhappy in life, are more likely to deflect what they are feeling onto others. It may seem like no matter what you do – you never have the right answer. Or the work you produce is never good enough. Even if you are doing a great job. And you’re good at your job. Even if you’re following all the proper procedures and protocols. People like this will always find fault.
I think I will end there. My stomach is growling and my head is starting to ache. I hope this advice will help you like it did for me. I can’t tell you enough, how life changing this was for me.
Take care of you first and foremost. Because YOU deserve it.
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