Lesson 9 – Changing Yourself

Changing Yourself

Negative vs. Positive Interactions

Can you change other people? NO. Can you change your reaction to them? YES.

Negative Interaction

Manager: “Why can you never do the invoices the way I want them done?
Bookkeeper: “Because you keep changing your mind about how you want them done.”
Manager: “No, it’s because you don’t listen to me.”

Positive Interaction

Manager: “Can you tell me why these invoices aren’t showing a due date on them?”
Bookkeeper: “Because you keep changing your mind about how you want them done, and I wasn’t sure what you wanted.”
Manager (Option One): “I hadn’t realised I’d been sending you mixed messages. What are the contradictory instructions I’ve given you?”
Manager (Option Two): “When that happens, I’d like you to feel free to ask me and to get some clarification. Then you’ll know what to do, and I will be happy with the invoices.”

“If it is to be, it’s up to me.” You are the one in the best position to change a negative cycle to a positive one. But that isn’t likely to happen if you don’t have a plan in mind ahead of time. Our spur of the moment reactions are all too often wrong.

Think of one of the people with whom you have a performance problem, and with whom you have difficulty communicating. You can use the five-step process as a guide any time you have a tough meeting coming up with an employee or with a client.

However, let’s be realistic. The best laid plans of mice and men (and managers) do not all turn out as well as we’d like. Use these questions for discussion:

  • When should you call for a time out? Answers might include when you are getting emotional, when you have been asked a tough question for which you aren’t prepared, or when the other person is emotional or unprepared.
  • When should you walk away from a client, or when should you decide “enough is enough” when you are considering employee performance?
  • Does this organisation need a policy for dealing with those difficult people who heap verbal abuse on employees?

Dealing with Negative Feelings

Put yourself in charge of you.

Take a leaf out of Eleanor Roosevelt’s book and refuse to beat up on yourself or make yourself a victim in these situations.

Be pro-active rather than reactive: notice what is going on around you, and when possible deal with potential problems right away. (For example, you can plan important meetings with staff and others to ensure issues are addressed before they explode.)


Become more aware of what you tell yourself both before and after dealing with a difficult situation. Remember the reality of self-expectancy.

Be in control.

Plan how you will handle the situation and visual yourself feeling in control. After a situation has been handled, analyse it, learn from it, and put it aside. If you still feel angry after you have dealt with a situation, use that anger constructively to clean your office, or let it propel you out the door for a walk.

Work on your sense of humor.

Research tells us that laughter is a proven method for dispelling stress and feeling better about the world.

Have a support team.

The most important thing you can do to deal with your negative feelings is to have a support group, people you can go to and just talk about how you feel. In this organisation, do you feel you have that kind of support? Do employees and clinicians have that kind of support? (This is very different from gossiping; confidentiality is a big factor here.)

However great your support system is at home, others will rarely be able to understand just how you feel as well as someone who is working within the same culture and walking in a similar pair of shoes. Part of your action plan for the end of today may be to work with others to create a safe haven (a partner or confidante or some other support mechanism) where you can let off steam and pent up emotion.