It didn’t take long for workplace conflict to emerge when I first joined the workforce.
I vividly recall finding myself in tears in the HR Advisor’s office after a difficult meeting.
I felt passed over, ignored, and worst of all, not seen. She was a lovely lady and she listened with all of the compassion and empathy that she could find in her heart. This helped tremendously and I will never forget her kindness on that day.
That said even with her compassionate listening, I still left the office unable to make sense of what had happened in the meeting and how to move through the emotional state that I was left in.
Sadly, this wasn’t the only difficult interaction that I encountered in my early career. The other ones involved yelling, passive-aggressive remarks, and me… remaining silent, not knowing how to handle it all.
I was afraid of speaking up and saying the “wrong” thing. I didn’t know if what I was feeling was “valid.” And I didn’t have the courage or the words to express myself.
And then Life Whispered to Me
When I came across the field of conflict resolution, it was as if life was whispering to me… “there is a better way.” And I am grateful that I was open enough to be receptive to the call.
Was my first difficult conversation easy? Hell no.
My voice shook. I didn’t say everything that I had planned to say. And I probably looked like I was going to pass out at several points during the conversation… but I spoke up. And I did so respectfully and lovingly, which was my goal.
What I Came to Know
I learned that without “resolution” we carry the trauma of these interactions inside of us. They stay there and fester, waiting for us to release them.
And I had come to a point in my life where the internal damage this was causing me was too much to bear.
It’s too much for anyone to bear.
I also learned that “resolution” doesn’t necessarily mean that you work it out with the other person.
What it does mean is that you can walk away from the situation with inner peace. This happens when you know that you’ve done everything you can to speak up respectfully, to truly hear the other person out, and to build bridges where possible.
5 Things I Wish My Younger Self Had Known
As I write this article, in my 40’s, I can’t help but reflect on who my younger self needed through her struggles and how I can show up for my family, friends, and clients as that person. Here’s what I would have wanted her to know:
(1) The world needs your voice. No one else can bring your unique perspective and experiences to this workplace. Your job is to figure out a way to find and claim it.
(2) I know you don’t believe me right now, but you will find the courage to speak up and you will be able to do so with ease and grace. Will this journey be easy? No. But will it be worth it? Most definitely.
(3) When you do find the courage to say what’s on your mind, the next daunting task ahead of you will be to truly listen to the other person… and to allow them the space to be who they are.
(4) More often than not, you will have contributed to the conflict situation in some way. You might not think so, but spend time reflecting on this and hear the other person out. Even if your contribution is simply not having raised the issue sooner… it’s still a contribution.
(5) To gain the peace of mind you’re seeking, you’ll need to live your life with no regrets. This means accepting that you’re human. So just do your best and choose where to invest your energy wisely, because in the end that’s really all you can do.
I hope that this little foray into my past will help any of you who are struggling to find your voice in a difficult situation.
Wishing you happy reflections,
“Be Yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde