For more than 40 years, I’ve been eyewitness to some of the best heavyweight fights imaginable. No, these are not boxing matches. These are co-workers in many of the nation’s largest, and smallest, companies, going at it each other in the most ugly, hurtful ways. As someone called in to declaw and defuse “ticking bombs” and help teams prevent business and career destroying fights, I’ve come to understand injurious verbal fights at work to be among the most ruinous ingredients of an organization’s culture.lll
What’s behind this level of rage and anger in the workplace? Have we become such an angry culture, as seen on TV, in music, on the big screen, in video games nd even in political debates today, that it’s just the next step? Bring your anger from the movie theater or concert to the workplace and then to home? I don’t believe that’s it. I believe the problem is far more of an individual one than necessarily a societal one, and is anchored within the mindset of individuals whose thoughts are filtered through a cobweb of three particular strands of aggressive, irrational, perception.
The tripod of conflict that I’ve defanged during my executive coaching career cuts across all levels of education, fighting styles, and personality styles. Passive-aggressive, backstabbing, direct confronters and head in the sand fighters, all of them obsessively drink from the tripod of conflict before letting loose their harm. If they weren’t “mentally addicted” to these legs of harmful thinking, they’d just experience what other healthy organizations do — debate, disagreement, professional bickering — not the debacle of out of control shouting, slamming, take no prisoner, war of words and worse, abusive attacks.
Let’s explore anger for a moment. The bucket of anger ranges from affection, warmth, admiration, fondness, affection and even love on one extreme to homicidal rage, infuriated, bent out of shape blood boiling, and embittered on the other extreme. In the middle we may be annoyed, irritated, rankled, frustrated, piqued, and displeased. Robert Ingersoll described anger as, “A wind which blows out the lamp of the mind.” Horace described it as, “Momentary insanity.”
Whichever it is, turning off the lamp in the mind or a moment of insanity, it’s grounded in one word — D.I.E. Well, actually that’s three words. Demand, Insist and Expect. You see, nobody, that means fully nobody alive, makes him/herself angry without one of more of those three words floating around. I’ll add “should,””shouldn’t,” “must,” ” mustn’t,” “have to,” “ought to,” and “I can’t stand it” to the list.
Try to become angry without thinking that someone “Must follow my directions.” Try to become enraged by believing that a colleague, “Should never do that again!” Try to turn the lamp off in your mind without holding on to the view, “She has to listen to me completely.” You are not likely oing to be able to achieve any level of anger without thinking some Demand, without Insisting something be different than it is, and without Expecting that it all goes your way.
Whether you have been programmed and continue to 1) hold deep levels of rivaly and jealousy based on a long-held internal story of you being insecure, or have told yourself for decades that 2) without having control you’ll be a victim who will be hurt, or 3) believe nonsensically that you can’t tolerate things that are not within your power, until and unless you do some spring cleaning and rid yourself of the labyrinth of these, yes, “nutty” notions, these awfulizing beliefs, this tripod of conflict, you will continue to be a burning flame of anger at work–and at home.
It’s time to defuse and defang these bitter fights at work and the way to do so is to use anti-awfulizing thinking instead.
Who says anyone MUST, SHOULD, OUGHT TO or HAS TO do it your way? Wouldn’t it be better, and more accurate to believe that it’d be better if people followed your directions in life but nobody really has to? “I’d prefer that you to treat me well but unfortunately you don’t have to do so,
when you don’t treat me well it’s really unfortunate but not awful,” That’s anti-awfulizing and fight preventing thinking. “I very much prefer life to be fair but unfortunately it doesn’t have to be the way I want it to be, and if life is unfair that’s very bad, but not the end of the world.” See the difference?
An anti-awfulizing belief stems from the full preference that I’d like things not to be as bad as they are, but that doesn’t mean that they must not be and it is non-extreme in the sense that the person believes at the time one or more of the following:
1 things could always be worse;
2 the event in question is less than 100 per cent bad;
3 some good could come from this bad event.
It’s been observed that compassion is the happiest mental state ever recorded in the history of neuroscience. That’s amazing! So more and more, workplaces are teaching methods to increase mindfulness, empathy and compassion. By delving into our own mindsets, our thinking patterns, especially our irrational thinking patterns, we begin to dissolve these demanding types of thoughts and replace them with far more empathic and compassionate ones. Think a disagreement might sound different from that perspective instead of the thinking that turns off the light in your mind? This level of increased self-awareness is a deeply distruptive tool to defuse anger and potential rage in the workplace. The link is what you think afterall. Most importantly, it is ALL in your head.