Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Actions and Reactions: Proving That You Are Right or Acting with Kindness?

Conflit au travail

It happens to everybody to regret having said certain things and/or to have made certain gestures in times of stress or conflict.

As a psychologist and coach, clients regularly ask me for advice as to how to better manage their interpersonal relationships, both personal and professional. Many feel overwhelmed and admit they react badly when stressed or confronted with arguments or conflict. I’ve noticed that more often than not, my clients admit their reactions in such interpersonal situations are emotional and / or impulsive and do not necessarily help solve the problem. Unfortunately for some, even for many, showing that they are right (and that the other party is wrong) becomes their objective (consciously or unconsciously) in such interpersonal exchanges. This leads to losing sight of the fact that the ultimate goal is rather to establish interpersonal relationships that allow us to live a more fulfilling, positive and productive personal and professional life. Adopting an interpersonal style that is too rigid or even unpredictable or avoidant in such situations leads rather to increasing the level of tension, frustration, distrust, and interpersonal dissatisfaction and this directly affects our capacity to function well and be productive.

I often meet with clients who tell me that they are stressed, disappointed, sad, and frustrated by their inability to resolve their disagreements in their life with their partner. This inability adversely affects their couple life and can contribute to a breakup in the long run. Similarly, some of my clients experience interpersonal difficulties at work (with colleagues and /or superiors) which undermine their professional success and ability to hold a job.

Although inadequate communication and an overly rigid/ unstable interpersonal style are at the root of many couple problems and tension and conflict at work, it is important to note that too often people’s behaviour is greatly affected by the thoughts, words, and actions of others. It is important to be aware of the fact that our behaviour should, as much as possible, be aligned with our core values in life, rather than being reactive to the behaviour of others. It is key to show empathy in our interpersonal exchanges. Furthermore, if you consider that another person’s actions towards you often reflect the state of their own relationship with themselves rather than an affirmation with regard to your worth as an individual, it will be easier for you, in time, to react emotionally less often or not at all. Our communication and interpersonal relationships will therefore be more predictable, less reactive, and will reflect our core values even when we disagree with the words or actions of our life partner or our colleagues/bosses.

I often ask my clients to consider the benefit of acting with kindness and empathy rather than trying to be right, at all cost, when caught up in tense interpersonal exchanges. Often, they realize that they put aside this important value in order to try to emerge the winner in a disagreement. They also realize that in the long run, they are rarely real winners in trying to be right at all cost. Some of my clients notice that their tendency, sometimes incontrollable, has led them to emotionally hurt and drive away their life partner or their work colleague when that really wasn’t their intention. If their reactions were aligned rather with the value of acting with kindness, they would really come out the winners in the long run; and this even if the other party does not prioritize this same value. Many wise men from different religions have noted that the world needs people who act with kindness more than those who are right. Meanwhile, it is important to note that even though disagreements, arguments, and conflict are part of our lives, they must be conducted with respect and without assailing the physical or psychological well-being of the parties involved.

In trying to understand why certain individuals have a more pronounced tendency to defend their points of view, words, and actions, I have noticed, in the more extreme cases, the existence of an interpersonal rigidity (even a personality disorder), an emotional instability, distrust, and often a lack of confidence accompanied by a fear of rejection. This tendency often affects these people in most of their interpersonal exchanges, both personal and professional. At work, they are often identified by their managers as being difficult-to-manage employees who gnaw away at their managers’ time and work less well as part of a team. Many managers feel overwhelmed in such situations and seek the help of specialized coaches/psychologists in order to find solutions (e.g. manager and/or employee coaching). Similarly, their interpersonal rigidity often affects their couple life and increases the risk of relationship breakdown. Helping them realize the negative impacts of their interpersonal style and to adopt feelings and actions that favour better exchanges and communication often becomes the principal objective of therapy/coaching. The success of such interventions depends largely on the degree to which the person recognizes the problem (introspection) and really wants to change. Often, their resistance to change is heightened by distrust and a fear of realizing that they must improve their interpersonal skills. They often fear reprisal at work or in their career paths and/or negative impacts on their couple and family life. Unfortunately, not accepting such an approach will often have even more negative impacts.

In conclusion, most people face certain interpersonal challenges in times of stress, tension, or conflict. It is important not to let the other person largely influence and dictate our reactions. Our reactions must be aligned with our ultimate values and objectives (in the short and long term). I encourage you to try more often to act with empathy and kindness rather than investing effort to show that you are right or that the other person is wrong. If you find that you have an extremely rigid or even volatile interpersonal style, it would be beneficial to see a psychologist or coach who specializes in this. Finally, don’t forget that trying to improve as a person is a noble objective to have.

Yaniv M. Benzimra, Ph.D.
Psychologist and Management Coach
Y2 Consulting Psychologists

Please contact Dr. Yaniv M. Benzimra by phone at 819-777-7744 x248 or by email at yaniv.benzimra@y2cp.com for more details.

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