The Situation: You take criticism personally.
You’re a reporter for a big Chicago newspaper. Your usual beat is the Women’s Page, where you cover human interest stories. But Julio, your editor, has assigned you a hard-news report on a local murder. You do the best you can with it, giving the story a human twist, but Julio is displeased. He comes by and hands your story back to you. “This report is junk,” he says. “You ramble, the facts just aren’t there, and it’s way too soft.” He turns and walks away. You want to crawl under your desk. You doubt your abilities as a writer and wonder how you ever got a job at such a prestigious newspaper. In short, you now feel that you are stupid and inadequate and that you’ll never write a decent story again. How can you pull out of this tailspin?
The Solution: Separate criticism of an act from your feelings about yourself as a person.
The boss was criticizing your report, not your existence. You need to focus on fixing the story. Take the opportunity to learn what you can from this experience and then drop it. Your boss’s harsh words were not about who you are as a person.
13. Details vs. The Big Picture
The Situation: You’re late turning in an important project.
You’re the director of clinical services for a health care company. Briana, the executive director, has asked you to prepare a training manual for your staff. You’ve made progress on it but haven’t been able to finish on deadline. First, you can’t find the time to hunt for graphics and put together a template. You want to put time into developing the policy that is new and has yet to be written. You’d also like to fine-tune the old sections that are quite outdated. Your email has been blowing up lately with internal and external customer issues. Briana has pressured you to finish the manual, and you have told her that you will get it done as soon as possible, but you fear that she will take this project away from you if you don’t complete it soon. What should you do?
The Solution: Don’t get caught in the details; focus on the larger goal.
This manual is really important to your manager, Briana, so you need to finish it. Identify the issues critical to Briana, and resolve those. That may mean letting go of some of the details: The graphics may not be exactly what you had envisioned, and maybe you won’t be able to fine-tune all the existing policies. Have someone else respond to some of the customer issues hitting your email box. And since it’s most important to Briana to have the manual ready to go, finish it first and worry about writing new policy later if it’s not critical right now.
14. Power & Body Language
The Situation: You’re perceived as being aggressive.
You’re a dentist attending a supplier conference. You are conversing with Conner, a colleague and fellow board member from another city. Although you’ve always enjoyed seeing Conner, you feel that he isn’t really interested in talking with you. He seems more focused on watching the others at the gathering. You try to engage him in a conversation but don’t seem to connect. You are completely floored the next day to hear that Conner was surprised at how aggressive you’ve become when he spoke with you at the meeting. What’s going on here?
The Solution: Don’t adjust your body axis to face head-on when talking to a man. He may perceive you as being aggressive.
When women interact with other women, they tend to face each other directly. When men interact with men, they tend to stand shoulder to shoulder and talk to the empty space in front of them. Typically, men only face each other directly during conflict situations. In fact, the most aggressive stance for men is face-to-face with hands on hips. When interacting with a member of the opposite sex, we try to position our bodies in the most familiar (and thus comfortable) position for our gender. You may have felt that Conner had disengaged himself from your conversation because he had simply tried to get into a more comfortable stance, turning his body sideways to yours. You might have interpreted his shift as an indication of his disinterest. When you tried to remedy the situation by attempting to face him directly, he might have perceived your movement as a sign of aggression. In the future, let your male colleagues adjust their stance while you stay planted. Mentally remind yourself that their position does not indicate disengagement, but rather is the most comfortable way to for them to stand.