A couple of years into my first job out of business school, my manager sent me to a training on Dealing with Difficult People. I needed it! There were so many difficult people I had to put up with every day – challenging clients, partners who didn’t listen, administrative staff who didn’t come through on my requests. It was really frustrating! I was glad to have an opportunity to find out what to do about all of these unhelpful people!
Of course, as we got into the program, it became clear that dealing with difficult people meant that I was the one who had to change. There was no way to get THEM to behave differently. If our interactions were consistently difficult, that meant that I was also being a difficult person. Ugh.
Of course, at some level, I knew that was true. I could be very demanding and critical. I noticed small details and liked things to be perfect. Also, I was kind of shy, which made it hard for people to get to know me. I was slow to build social connections that would make it easier to work through problems together. People often experienced me as dismissive, when really, I was just nervous about talking with them.
My take-away from that program was that I was the problem. Not just my behavior. Me. It tapped into my fears that there was something fundamentally wrong with me. Coming out of that training, I knew that if I wanted to be successful, I’d have to become someone else.
Ironically, rather than helping me be successful, that attitude had the opposite effect. The feeling that I wasn’t good enough caused me to second-guess my decisions. I was constantly self-conscious, which made it difficult to build genuine connections or be authentic with my colleagues.
Luckily, along the way, I started learning about human systems, which helped me see ways that I could take my own experiences less personally. I learned about strengths-based development and positive psychology and growth vs. fixed mindsets.
All of these insights helped me shift my attitude about myself. Rather than seeing myself as someone who was broken and had to be constantly on alert to get things right, I could instead see myself as someone who was learning. My personal growth was less of a “have to” and more of a “want to.” I started to see and leverage my strengths.
Unsurprisingly, as soon as I stopped fighting with myself, I developed. I grew my capacity to sit with frustration without taking it out on the people around me. I got better at identifying and working with differences. I learned how to give productive feedback and how to receive feedback without getting so defensive.
I developed the skills that have people now tell me what a great coach I am – how calm I am to be around, how well I listen, and how I’m changing their lives. The old me could not have done those things. There wasn’t anything wrong with her, but she wasn’t there yet. She was doing the best she could with what she had.
I’m sharing this story with you because I think one of the biggest restraining forces to people’s development is that “make wrong” attitude that I wrestled with all those years ago.
When we make ourselves – or the people around us — wrong for what we don’t know how to do yet, that gets in the way of learning and growing. It stops us from trying new things or reaching out for help.
That’s why mindset is one of the first things I work on with my clients. We create the conditions for their development by making sure they accept themselves as they are, first. We focus on feeling whole, even as they’re growing. With that foundation built, we focus on strategies that will help them navigate their careers. That combination is powerful. From that foundation, there’s no limit to their success.
If you’d like help building a strong foundation for your growth as a professional and as a leader, along with the strategies that will help you succeed, let’s talk. You can book a call with my team here. https://www.zmcoach.com/apply