How to get control of your reactions so you keep your job

You don't have to start a fight

Many times, your fear, your need to protect yourself, or your narrative from the past dictates or drives the responses you make.

When you choose your responses, you have the option to offer an extreme negative response, an extreme positive response, or anything in between.

Once, at a conference I was hosting, a woman stood up and took me to task in front of an audience of 150 women for some aspect of the conference she thought wasn’t organized very well. Years later, when I was delivering a program on overcoming fear, I told the participants the story about the conference and asked for examples of an extreme negative response I could have given the woman at that moment.

One person said, “Sit your ass down.” Of course the participants laughed. And, yes, I could have said that.

But what would I have gained? For a few seconds I might have felt good about putting that woman “in her place.” After that it would have been all downhill. 

At least some, if not many, in the audience would have been upset. Someone likely would have called my boss. I would have paid for that remark for days and possibly weeks or months thereafter.

More importantly, had I given a response like that, I know it would have been driven by fear. I would have gone into self-protect mode, felt embarrassed, and tried to get my revenge. There is nothing productive about a response like that. More than anything, it would hurt me as much as, if not more than, the conference participant.

There was no negative fallout from that experience because I chose the extreme positive response. “Thank you so much for your input. I appreciate that. I’ll look into it immediately.”

When someone starts yelling at you, you have a choice to make. Of course, it’s not a pleasant experience, and often you may choose to yell back. Your thinking might be something like, “That person made me so mad!” “That person disrespected me!” “I had to defend myself!”

As you consider your responses, you can ask yourself questions like, “Is that person’s response really about the issue or about his or her fear?” “Does the fact that this person has chosen to yell mean that I, too, have to yell?”

The fact of the matter is no one forces you to argue. You choose. You choose to engage. You choose to raise your voice. You choose to believe everything is about you. You choose to believe that everything requires a response. You choose to believe that people have so much power over you.


About Joe Serio

Dr. Joe Serio is a keynote speaker, trainer, and author who helps the people in your organization navigate resistance to change so they can move forward successfully.

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