In the last few years, the ‘Anti-Bullying’ movement has been going around social media. At the time of this writing, I feel it’s sort of died down, what with the inauguration of a new administration in the US, and various other high profile events going on in the world. One thing’s for sure: Bullying still exists. Bullying will never go away. It is not only a phenomenon that is seen in schools but is seen in every area of life, all over the world. Despite its noble intention, however, the very essence of having an ‘anti-anything’ movement is completely ineffective. Mother (Saint) Theresa concurred. She never supported ‘anti-war’ rallies. But she would support a peace rally. Anti-anything movements don’t seek to stop the occurrence. It just perpetuates it because the focus is still on the very thing that you wanted to eradicate. Let’s face it. We all have instances where we feel intimidated, wherever you are in life. Even CEO’s of world-class organizations have admitted to instances where they have felt intimidated and/or like a fraud. (a topic for a different day)
So we spend an insurmountable amount of energy raising awareness against bullying in schools, which don’t get me wrong, I still think is important. Why not use that energy, instead, to fortify a person’s self-confidence and assertiveness?
I had a mom-date with Amy, my friend of 20 years and the topic of bullying surfaced. She said something that stood out to me: ‘Sometimes you need to get pushed around in order to learn to be stronger.’ Yes. I wholeheartedly agree. Diamonds can only be formed under immense pressure.
Without this pressure, a diamond is but a black lump of carbon, its valuable potential never realized. The balance of the equation is to have the opportunity and the guidance to be able to hone the skills to fortify one’s self against intimidation. Consider the points that follow, and how we can capitalize on them to stick up for ourselves during our next confrontation.
Is it in your head?
Mark Twain famously said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” Often we create these fabulously intense situations and alternate endings that we end up stressing over them for nothing. They never end up transpiring. In fact, Don Joseph Goeway discussed a study on Huffington Post that looked into how many of our ‘imagined calamities’ ever materialize. Turns out, the magic number is 85%. Apparently, 85% of what people worried about in this study never ended up happening, leaving a mere 15% that actually did transpire.
What can we draw from this? I still think it is prudent of us to go through the mental processing of alternatives and what-if scenarios. But now we can take comfort in the fact that we’ve got a pretty large safety net if our probability of catastrophic failure is a mere 15%.
That said, we still shouldn’t dismiss a real life problem. If our intuition tells us that something smells fishy, there’s likely a fish nearby. As I have gotten older, I’ve learned to listen more and more to my own intuition. The article went on to talk about how if we stop worrying, or worry significantly less, it would translate into a more relaxed, happier state of mind and body. If ever you’re looking for the fountain of youth, worry less. Better yet, worry not at all.
This article published by the Washington Post floated around Facebook some time ago. It was basically an open letter from an elementary teacher to parents. The article was a beautiful prose about what she would do as a teacher to nurture your child if your kid turned out to be the school bully.
There has been so much focus on the kids who get bullied, but what has anyone done to understand the root cause of the bully? It is my core belief that people are inherently good. Everyone wants to do well in their life. There have been countless studies on the subject of human needs and what makes us happy. No one creates happiness by shitting on someone else if they feel fulfilled themselves. Said another way, people who shit on someone else to feel good have, quite simply, a gaping hole in their life. If we understand what that hole is, we might have a chance to address it, instead of merely suppressing it. It’s not sustainable.
In our world, it’s less about bullies in the office, (though sometimes it is), and more a question of how to handle that difficult SOB, be it a colleague or customer. It’s way too easy to dismiss him up to being ridiculous. How many of us actually take the time to see the world from the other guy’s point of view?
I’ve been guilty of this on many occasions. I can’t be bothered to see the other guy’s perspective, and why he would be putting up a fight over something as trivial as why I went to this screen first instead of that. Why I would need to go through a ton of red tape only to push one simple change through, even though it would result in stopping the bleeding of millions of revenue. (hypothetical example, of course)
Here’s why. It takes work. It takes mental energy to think of someone other than yourself. Most of us are too self-consumed to try on the perspective of anyone else.
“You Can Stand Me Up at the Gates of Hell, but I won’t back down”
One of my favorite songs by the legendary Tom Petty. Last night, I was recording an Inspired Parent Insights Podcast with my partner, Perry, whom as you know, lives in Singapore. At one point, he brought up that Singapore has long since been at risk of invasion from all of their neighboring countries. Back in the day, they brought in Israeli’s military intelligence to train their own army. He indicated that the Singaporean philosophy is this: “We don’t pick fights, but we stand our ground. We don’t back down.”
Consider the situation when we are confronted with an opposing opinion or objection. Our first instinct when someone takes a shot at our idea is to hit back. Put up our defenses. Stand our ground! We’re being attacked! But if we take a look at what the most brilliant leaders do, they do something completely different. The high performing leaders, instead, would take that hand from which the shot came, and dance with him. Instead of hitting back and reciprocating offense, high-performance leaders and persuaders get to the root cause of the objection. They inquire further. They get to the core.
“I can appreciate your concern. What makes you say that?”
This might cycle around a few times until the real concern is uncovered. But this means breakthrough. Even then, the true concern only has a 15% chance of actually happening.
Communication is Your BFF
I‘d be hard-pressed to think of a problem that really can’t be resolved without communication. Often we feel oppressed because we feel that we aren’t heard, or heard properly. We don’t feel that our voice is loud enough. We can’t seem to find the words to express truly what we are feeling at that moment. My friends, I’m sorry to say that there is no substitute for improving your communication skills but to communicate. The only answer is to actively practice. Practice writing; practice speaking. Practice reading people; practice body language. As I mentioned in my post “The Simplest Ways to Use Body Language to Convey Confidence, ” more than 80% of your communication comes from a place other than your pie-hole.
Start to pay attention to what people are telling you if they were on mute. Read what they eyes are telling you. Read when and why they cross their arms suddenly. Read what their posture is telling you. I’ve started to do this when I’m in meetings. I look around the room and try to sense what everyone else is feeling. Mostly it’s extreme boredom. Occasionally it’s boredom mixed with indifference. Hey, it’s still practice. Learning what everyone’s boredom cues are is sure to benefit me down the road when I’m delivering a presentation to them.
As for improving verbal communication, Toastmasters is a great way to refine your verbal speaking skills. You’ll learn to organize your thoughts before they come out of your mouth. You’ll eradicate those ‘likes,’ ‘uh’s,’ ‘um’s,’ and ‘you know’s.’ You one day might even be independent of that ubiquitous and completely trite ‘so.’
Everyone Looks the Same on the Inside
I used to get intimidated quite easily. I was so quick to put everyone on a pedestal. It might have come from my childhood. In an effort to get me to push harder, my parents always pointed out accomplishments from my peers. I’m afraid to say that this might have had the opposite effect on me. I ended up habitually belittling myself, thinking I could never measure up. There was always a steady stream of accomplishments and achievements that my parents so readily brought to my attention. Seldom were they mine. So I got used to putting everyone up there, while I was down here. When I got older, I applied this same habit and thought that people who occupied a high position in the company, or people who made more money than I did, or were older than I, were somehow better than I. Hence I would be intimidated. This since has changed in recent years.
First, I’m too old and cranky to give a damn now. Second, ever since I went to Body Worlds, I realized one key thing. We all look the same on the inside. It doesn’t much matter whether or not you’re the president of a worldwide conglomerate or the homeless person on the street. Cut you in half, and no one can tell you apart.
When you understand this, you truly feel somewhat enlightened. It’s clear that we’re all on an equal playing field. You realize that there’s no point in feeling intimidated. As they say in Cantonese, “Nei tong ngoh gum goh, gum dai,” which translates to “You and I are the same size.” At the end of it all, we’re all the same carbon-based being.
Recently I accepted a new volunteer position with the CPA’s Research Grant Committee. After being on the cover of the fall edition of the CPA magazine, they invited me to lend a hand. Of course, I happily accepted. I had it in my head that every cover model was invited. I pictured all 50+ of us gathered in an auditorium reviewing grant applications. Turns out, the committee was hand selected and comprised of only six people. When I saw the names of the other members of the committee, I realized that I was the only one who had less than 6 letters behind my name. Everyone was a PhD this, and FCPA that, followed by an impressive string of other designations which likely must have cost several six figures to obtain.
Letters or not, I still am incredibly honoured to be included in this elusive group. Little ol’ me: blogger, grassroots entrepreneur. And hence, I began to feel familiarly intimidated. I felt like I wouldn’t measure up. I hadn’t even attended a single meeting and I felt that I wouldn’t be able to convey my point… like my perspective was somehow less important than everyone else’s. Then, I remembered. First, it’s all in my head. I alone put all of these individuals on a pedestal, the illustrious academics that they are.
But here’s the thing. I told myself was invited for a reason. I wasn’t invited because my grin was immortalized on the cover of the book. I was invited for my younger, entrepreneurial, perhaps even new-age, practical perspective. What I bring to the table is a close pulse on what’s going on in the world of up and coming accounting professionals, entrepreneurs and what their struggles are. Because of my experience with digital innovative trends, online marketing, and solopreneur-ship makes me a valuable contributor to the team. In fact, they are relying on me for my perspective because possibly no one else has this same strength combination.
Most importantly, I remembered that we are all the same. The only difference is that we all spent time in different areas hence our collective power as a committee. All intimidation melted away. We’re all the same on the inside. In fact, I might be even fitter and healthier on the inside… if that counts for anything.
Understand What Makes Them Tick
Not everything needs to go your way all the time. Not every conversation needs to end with your last word. Often, you fare better when you pick your battles. If it means something to you, you’re going to do something about it. If not, let it slide. Live to fight another day. Life’s too fricking short to hang on and fight tooth and nail for everything.
I work with a lot of men. After all, it’s still IT, remember? Theoretically, in this day and age, the gap of gender inequality has grown closer and closer. But there’s still a gaping hole. Maybe it will never fully close. Still, I’m grateful to be working in the digital age. But if you want to navigate your way in working in a room full of testosterone, you need to know how to play the people: both men and women. Here’s something that has served me well to keep in mind: Less confident people need to have the last word. They need to feel to feel important like they were instrumental in coming up with the solution. And they need everyone to know. They need to feel included. So include them. Give them the fuel that makes them feel good about themselves. Once you make an effort to get into their psyche, you get out of your own psyche. And you quit getting psyched out.
Look. It all boils down to being comfortable in your own skin and valuing yourself as you truly are. In one of my favorite books, Beyond Positive Thinking, Dr. Robert Anthony says “You are spiritually whole and complete. You are spiritually perfect.” You were always spiritually perfect. What you do may not be perfect, but there weren’t any accidents to have you arrive where you are. Hold your head high. Be proud of you who are. They have nothing on you.
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