As a leader, you’ve probably encountered situations that can be frustrating. Perhaps your direct report did something wrong or you had too much on your plate. How did you deal with that situation?
I was recently asked at a gathering of friends how I remained so positive. Did I have a secret daily ritual of beating up a punching bag? Did I release my stress by screaming at a stuffed animal? I said no, but I sometimes rely on my hobbies of movies and video games every once in a while when I want to let off some steam.
One friend gave a scenario where she was attending a training class. Someone at her table was behaving maliciously, criticizing others’ comments at the table and behaving as if the training was a waste of time. My friend angrily said she wanted to confront and attack this individual. But instead of reacting, the trainer leading the class encouraged this individual’s participation and even complimented this person’s correct answers. My friend was astonished at how patient the trainer was. And she said she saw that same patience in me.
I imagined what was running through the trainer’s mind in that situation. I mentioned that if I were in the trainer’s shoes, I’d be focused on creating a positive learning experience for the whole class. And that’s how I’d stay positive and patient. I said it’s all about perspective: Not focusing on the individual and the frustration that person is causing, but instead on the bigger picture; the task at hand; the goal.
In Covey’s 7 Habits, he mentions a paradigm shift he experienced on the subway when several children were being extremely disruptive. Out of irritation, he approached the father and asked him to control his children more. But then the father said that they were coming from the hospital where their mother had passed away and that they perhaps didn’t know how to cope with the loss. Covey instantly felt compassion and empathy instead of irritation.
In the same way, if you encounter a frustrating situation and find yourself becoming angry, it’s crucial to shift your perspective and focus. Difficult as it might be, think outside the box and try to imagine some of the hardships that are causing this person to behave this way.
Watch the following excellent video, “How to Remain Calm With People,” for more on this topic. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=du035tg-SwY