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Whether it’s year end or month or quarter close, tensions tend to rise when pressure mounts and task lists grow. For most, this combo reduces patience, increases frustration and let’s face it… can provoke a pretty flagrant use of quickly doled out names and labels. So, in the spirit of the season, as you’re working to put together months of leadership learning in an effort to become a better leader, a question: has your boss lost his wits and called you a thing or two, only to later apologize? Or worse yet, assume you knew remorse was intended, but never uttered? Are your employees getting testy, too? If so, it happens. Seriously, it does. And often. But so, does the anger or pain that comes with a name. So does the hurt from a remark that appears personal. But, if they said something hurtful or called you that, what do you do about it? Crying in the bathroom could feel like an option. Carrying out the full on beat down you imagine, could feel better in the moment, but the following alternate three methods have way more benefits. Take a breath, use one of these and keep from needing bail money during these holidays.

Don’t Confuse Fact with Opinion

To be specific, at home and at the office, we’ve all thought things of other people that were in fact, not fact, but our opinion. The boss you believe is a b word is merely what you perceive to be a b word when she’s in your presence, or maybe also with others, but either way, your opinion of her behavior does not mean she is through and through a b word person. Our opinions are subjective. You think an employee is a jerk and someone else thinks of him as her loving husband. What someone calls you is their opinion. What someone calls you, no matter their authority, experience, position, or credibility in the area of doling out accurate other labels, is only their opinion. The hurt ensues when we confuse the subjective perceptions of others with factual information. Especially tricky for extroverts seeking external validation, determining your worth and your value is instead, an internal conversation. The more you rely on or value the opinions of others, the more you lose sight of who you are and the value you really bring to the equation. Listen to the labels and names when they’re given. Then look for patterns that might suggest an adjustment is needed, due to your current environment, not who you are as a person. And follow both actions with an objective thought process that includes looking at their perspective, their stress level, the speed in which their opinion may change, and the answer to the question are your efforts to defend their current label and opinion, really worth it? Then respond accordingly.

Watch for Triggers

Contrary to where Rudolph cartoons and Lifetime movies will guide you, the holiday time of year, for so, so many, is wrought with triggers, shoulds, rehashed memories, and expectations. It’s no wonder we eat from mid-November until January. Nothing covers up pain like pecan pie and a never-ending supply of sugar candy canes. Jest if you wish, but for some, their deepest desire is for New Year’s to get here as quickly as possible so they reclaim normal and stop living in a land that’s so hurtful.  Perhaps a loved one, or child, or parent was lost during a time that is highly sentimental. Maybe their marriage looks nothing like the couple in the jewelry or Viagra commercial and instead looks like a Tim Burton movie. Covering that up when everything should be festive and peachy is exhausting. December is a trigger rich environment. Instead of less patience, people need more slack this time of year. Those you lead may be juggling how to buy the expected number of or type of presents for their teenagers when they’re not sure they can pay their car payment in January. You may be bracing for what your own mom or dad will say when they come to visit and the first words out of that woman on your team who acts just like your mom, may be met with a volcanic reaction not really meant for her to begin with. Triggers. They trip us up. They get tripped for sometimes odd reasons. The reactions created seem to come from a place deep within us and cause us to say stupid things we’d never say in normal circumstances. What someone called you, or said, may have hurt potential, but if it’s merely tripping one of your triggers, you can control that. Identify three of your top triggers, or hot button items this time of year. Take care to avoid situations where you know triggers have a tendency to be tripped. And when someone mashes down on one of those triggers, whether they meant to or it was an accident, lead yourself through it by simply saying I need a moment. Then take one and when you return, or don’t, you’ll be able to respond in a manner that is much more level-headed.


This method may well need to be only that one-word sentence. Consider. As a leader of others, consider their perspective. As a leader of your boss, consider the pressure they must be under. As a leader of yourself, consider the need to set even better boundaries or the joy of simply not feeling the need to explain your side of the story. Consider. There are always options. There are always other choices. There are choices we make with no leadership and mere reaction and there are choices that we make when we’re leading ourselves in a valuable direction. Consider what else could be happening. What might be the outcome if you did do something that prompted a bigger argument? Do you have a person to call to give you bail money if you said ALL of what you were thinking in that moment? Kidding aside, don’t be the leader who only considers what others may be dealing with when you hear the story of the man on the train with unruly children, whom you’re judging until you learn his wife died earlier that morning. Withhold your reaction to the woman who just bit your head off without the need to learn that she’s afraid her test results might come back tomorrow and say, yes, she has cancer.

Consider being that leader who regularly sees the difference between fact and opinion. Consider being that leader who is working to become better and better, including in the area of managing his or her own triggers. Consider being that leader who chooses to make another decision other than reacting to each and every small thing or big label given. And then consider this: The sting of their words is commensurate with the size of your reaction.

Monica Wofford, CSP develops leaders. CEO of Contagious Companies, her firm designs and delivers leadership training for those managers who’ve been promoted, but not prepared. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com

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