Monday, May 10, 2010

Tools For Change

Change is a constant in our lives. It can be challenging, it can be frightening. The one thing to remember is that life is never stagnant, and attempts to arrest or slow the natural flow of our lives goes against the very laws of nature and physics! Things get set in motion, and they stop when it is time to stop...time never gets arrested in one place, always going forward. We have to adopt this for our lives, as well.

So, as my first tool for change, I strove to accept the fact that this, right now, is where I am supposed to be, and nowhere else. I can change things if I want to. I can move, quit a job, or sit in my chair moaning about all the unfair things in life. When I decide not to make a decision, it is still an action. So, if I am here, in the now, and this is the place for me to be at this time, what then? How do I rationalize it, make the best of it?

I assume we are talking about the mundane adventures of life, and not, say, a life threatening event, as these are very rare. We are discussing getting cut off in traffic, being screamed at by a boss, somebody has power over you and authority and is using it, you are being treated unfairly, the bills are piling up, you are carrying more than your fair share. Dealing with, say, life in a war zone, or patrolling or policing an enemy territory is another matter entirely, as trouble is expected- that is why you are there.

So, what to do? What I do is take myself out of the equation. By that, I really mean ego. I have a mean, mean pride, and it gets in my way. One of the reasons I began my study of the martial arts 30 years ago was because it was recommended to help me tame my bad temper and easily offended pride. Ego is at the center of it all. And, let me say, I do not fully subscribe to the zen belief that ego is bad. I do think that an ego unchecked is a recipe for trouble, however!

We have to prioritize these events, decide very quickly what the worst outcome will be. My personal list, rated from least to most critical in terms of impact, is this:

Slightly insulting, teasing, minor blame. I ignore this as best I can. This sort of behavior comes from very insecure and unhappy persons. They can get their jollies elsewhere, as I will not give them the small ego boost they want from annoying me. Deny them attention!

Raised voice, Anger, Challenging. This is an escalation. You are now definitely the focus of some bad vibes, and you are being singled out. This is where I start to pay attention, and assess- I try to talk with the person in a calm, monotone voice, to re-direct, as we say in mental health. Don't shy away from the focus, deflect it with soft, reasonable words. Give them an out, a way to save face, and let them- don't have the last word unless you want it to continue.

Direct challenge, Screaming, Threats This can be either professional, such as a boss blaming you for something and threatening your position or job, or something else. Again, impact! We can't choose our boss, so we have to deal with it. I have rarely been able to redirect this type of person when they are in the middle of their 'power orgy'. Let them rant, and if you disagree, tell them why in a reasonable tone. This is one place where logic must win, as there are labor laws, and if you yell, too, you are simply adding to the hostile environment.

Outside of work, or with a co-worker that can't affect your employment status- and, in this economic environment, I do not ever recommend letting pride send you to the unemployment line- you can be firmer. Again, consider- why are they doing this? If you are in the wrong, or it just looks that way, admit it. You can turn away a whole flock of wrath by simply saying you made a mistake, or that you didn't mean it that way. Never underestimate a persons' desire to be right! Be in the wrong, apologize, and let it go if they are willing to do so. If they are not, then you need a mediator- a supervisor, a cop, a lawyer. Don't take abuse if you can't diffuse things. But, take ego out of it- simply inform them that you aren't going to deal with them anymore, conversation over, unless they want to go to the mediator. This will usually stop or tone it down, as they look for ways to extradite themselves and save face. Remember, saving face is very important for those that are insecure or just have to be right. Shrug your shoulders and let them be- it amuses them, and doesn't hurt you, just your ego- and we control our ego, don't we?

Menacing, Invading space, Physical intimidation, Prelude This is getting serious, as the person will not back down, will not listen to reason. They are in the grip of anger, and they want to act out on it. The one thing I know is anger! Having been an 'anger junkie' I understand- it is addictive, and you get to like the rush of adrenaline and the feeling of power. The problem is when you decide to act on it. At this point, cognitive abilities are way down, as is IQ. Rational person is put on hold, and the caveman comes to the rescue! Flight or fight, and they look ready to fight.

Points to ponder: I rarely feel intimidated due to my training, but there are a host of other factors. At my work, I cannot legally defend myself. Amazing, but true! I can be fired, and suffer from the agency that inspects all mental health facilities in my state. I can use enough force to protect others, but I am expected to do nothing that will assault our clients. Assault here can be as simple as touching somebody, by the way- we are a no-touch facility. My voice is still my best option here, and it may be in your workplace as well. At this point, you need to call a supervisor, or the police. You don't have to take this! It is against the law to threaten violence, and if you fear for your safety (remember this phrase when law enforcement or supervisors arrive)you need somebody to intervene. If you can't get away, and there aren't any exits, try to talk to them in a reasonable manner- remember, calm, monotone voice. Some bullies like a victim, so if you are really afraid, let them know! You would be surprised how much they feed on it.

Physical contact: All bets are off! Defend your self, this is the jungle, baby! Forget all the crap, just survive! Use any method, there is no 'dirty fighting' when you are in danger. If you don't know how to fight, use a weapon- a pen, your keys, a rock. Rage and determination are your best tools now-, let the killer caveman lose! And, if you get an opening, run!

These are all basic, simple tools, and very generic. Please let me know what you think! Remember, these are my personal tools, made for me. You will have to find your own!