Many years ago, I worked with with a person who had a very aggressive way of communicating when she was upset.
She would regularly use sarcasm as her weapon of choice. And her tone of voice and body language would ooze anger if she was really upset.
She had terrorized a few people in our office, so I guess I wasn’t too surprised when my turn arrived.
I had made a call on a file that she thought was a mistake. And she was intent on letting me know the error of my ways.
Her face flushed and she she started to rip into me. I don’t quite recall what she said, but I do remember the tone, the judgement, and the heated energy of that moment like it was yesterday.
And for the first time… on that day, I surprised myself by doing things differently.
You see, I was an expert at shutting down in these types of situations… (you can read more about that HERE if you’re curious.)
But this time, it literally felt like we were in the movie The Matrix and everything was happening in slow motion.
I recall thinking, “So it begins…”
You see… I had prepared for this moment.
And that’s what helped make all the difference.
All of the soul searching… all of the practice… all of the training…. and all of the “easier” difficult conversations that I forced myself to go through laid the foundation for my response in that moment.
Yeah… learning to do this kind of thing doesn’t just happen overnight, as much as we wish it would. (I know I did!)
I was cool, calm, and collected… I took a deep breath and simply said, “I’m happy to speak with you, but not if you’re going to address me with that tone or label me. I’m going to end this conversation now, and we’ll talk at another time.”
I didn’t flinch… I didn’t waiver… I didn’t attack back… and I didn’t cave.
My coworker reacted by threatening to speak to our boss, which I happily welcomed her to do.
The situation ended up resolving itself in my favour, but that was much less exciting to me than the firm yet respectful boundary that I managed to pull off in the heat of the moment.
I had made the one critical shift that changed everything for me.
I had finally accepted the fact that I have full control over myself, but only influence over others.
And because of this, my criteria for success in difficult conversations was no longer solely based on how the other person felt.
I had made space in my definition for my own response… And I had developed clear and simple criteria for what constituted a successful response, regardless of the other person’s reaction: when setting a boundary, I wanted to be clear, firm, and respectful.
As a result of this shift, I was no longer carrying the full burden of these types of interactions on my shoulders.
Phew… what a relief! I can’t even begin to tell you how much lighter I started to feel after that day.
Now don’t get me wrong, as I said, this certainly didn’t happen overnight…
But it DID HAPPEN :)
Pretty great, don’t you think?
And guess what? This is exactly the type of thing that I help my clients with.
If my story speaks to you and you’d like to learn more about how to stand up for what you need without knocking the other person down, sign up for a free consultation with me! I’d love to hear from you.