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Coaching Para el Exito Conviertete en el Entrenador de Tu Vida Personal y Profesional / Coach Yourself to Success
By Talane Miedaner Ediciones Urano
Copyright © 2002Talane Miedaner
All right reserved.
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening,
that is translated through you into action, and because
there is only one of you in all time, this expression is
unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through
any other medium and will be lost."
Powerful people have the ability to get what they want, to attract great opportunities and people and wealth, and to wield their influence to impact those around them. We are all powerful to varying degrees, but everyone can increase his or her own natural power and have more energy. The formula is a simple one: to increase your natural power, eliminate the things that drain your energy and add the things that give you energy. I said simple, not necessarily easy. The first place to start when you begin this coaching program is to dramatically reduce the number of things that are distracting you and draining your energy and replace them with some positive, nurturingenergy boosters. This is where you get your life in good shape, get rid of the bad habits, and learn how to protect yourself from unpleasant people and remarks. This is the underlying foundation needed to increase your power naturally and attract the success you want. We often neglect to build a solid foundation for our lives because we are so busy going after our goals.
There are a couple of dangers in going after really big goals before you've taken the time to get your life in basic order. First, you may achieve your goal, but it may not last. Don't waste time building castles on sand; build your castle on bedrock. You've probably seen it happen to friends who sacrifice all to go for their goal, achieve it, and find the success short-lived. It is commonly believed that achieving great success can ruin you. That may simply be a case of not having laid the proper foundation, so when the first windstorm or calamity strikes, the whole thing crumbles to ruins. It may not be the success that ruins people, but rather the lack of a good foundation. Any work you do in this first section will strengthen you and make all the following steps of this book much easier to do. So while I know these may look simple, take the time to do them. It is critical to your long-term success.
The second danger is that you may reach your goals and then not feel fulfilled or satisfied. A reporter once asked me what was the number one reason why people don't reach their goals. I told her it is that they pick the wrong goals in the first place. Have you ever had your heart set on some objective and then, when you finally achieved it, found your victory was hollow? Either what you wanted wasn't as great as you had imagined, or you enjoyed it for a short time and then went all too quickly on to the next goal. This is extremely common. We are so heavily influenced by media and advertising that we often don't know what we really want as individuals, but instead adopt some media-inspired vision of what will make us happy. These aren't your true dreams or goals, but you may have been seduced into them with slick advertising. Obviously, reaching these goals will still leave you with those vague feelings of discontent. Before you can even figure out what makes you really happy, you need to handle the basics in life.
Start energizing your life by getting rid of everything you are putting up with. Cleaning out your closet and sewing on a button may not sound glamorous, but this is often the first step to getting what you really want. As Mom always said, "Eat your veggies, then you can have dessert."
1. Eliminate All Those Petty
"To be really great in the little things, to be truly noble and
heroic in the insipid details of everyday life, is a virtue so rare
as to be worthy of canonization."
Harriet Beecher Stowe
If you are serious about being successful, start by eliminating everything you are putting up with, the things you are tolerating, enduringthose petty annoyances. You might be tolerating any number of small things, such as the overflowing in-box, the unpaid taxes you have to figure out, or even the tear in your bathrobe that nags at you every time you open your shower door and see it hanging there. Every time you see it, you think, "I've got to sew that up." That is an annoyancesomething as small as a missing button, or scuffed shoes. It could be that you are also tolerating something bigger. Maybe you're tolerating your spouse's bad breath, or your best friend's habit of always showing up late, or you're tolerating something about your work, perhaps a boss who micromanages you. Or you could be tolerating your own bad habitsthat you bite your nails or can't find important papers because your files are disorganized. You could be annoyed by the pollution in your city, the fact that your car is messy, or that you have a long commute to work.
Everything you are tolerating drains your energy, makes you irritable, and wears you down. It is very difficult to be successful if you are putting up with a lot. From my coaching experience, I've found that most people tolerate anywhere from 60 to 100 different things. To eliminate what you are putting up with, simply write down the 60 to 100 things that you are tolerating. Make the list. It doesn't do any good to just keep a mental list in your head; you must write them down to get them out of your head and onto paper. Then call a friend and buddy-up with someone else who wants to get rid of the things they are putting up with too. Set aside a whole Saturday or Sunday as a blitz day and start working down your list on anything that can be done in one day. If you start to lose steam, call your buddy to check in for a pep talk and report your progress. And set a deadline. After the blitz day treat yourself to dinner and the movies.
Some of the things you won't be able to handle in one day, so give yourself one to three months and whoever gets the most items eliminated gets taken out to dinner or wins some special treat. Petty annoyances drain your energy, reducing your natural ability to attract success. Don't sweat the small things. Just get them out of your life. As for the things that seem impossible to handlelike your boss, the long commute to work, or your spouse's bad breathjust write them on the list and don't worry about them. The solutions will come to you in time.
Take the example of Jason, a successful portfolio manager on Wall Street. Jason loved the financial world, but was extremely frustrated in his work, where he seemed to be putting in long hours day after day. He had been in the same position for over seven years and felt he wasn't getting the recognition or salary he deserved. Jason told me, "I feel like a rat on a treadmill. I keep running faster and faster and working harder and harder and it is getting me absolutely nowhere. What do I do?" I asked Jason to list all the things he was currently tolerating about his life, both personally and professionally. He came back with a fairly long list, which included items such as: no social life, eating alone, no recognition at work, a tear in his favorite leather jacket, ironing his shirts, the stack of papers piled high in his in-box, a poorly trained assistant who chewed gum all the time at work, paying bills, and the bathtub needing caulking, to name a few. The list of his problems seemed endless. Like many unhappy people, he was stuck. I said, "Jason, it's time to start taking excellent care of yourself." I suggested that he begin rewarding himself, doing some things he especially liked even when all the paperwork wasn't finished. He needed to stop pushing so hard for a few minutes and rest. The result was gratifying. One day he went for a walk in Central Park and watched the sunseta simple thing that he really enjoyed but hadn't taken the time to do in years. He started taking a martial arts classsomething he had always wanted to do but just couldn't seem to justify the time for. Now Jason had something to look forward to after work and he found himself getting his work done more efficiently so he could go to his classes. He cleaned up all the papers on his desk and caulked the tub, then things began to turn around. Jason talked to a recruiter about job prospects, and within two months he had a new job at another investment bank where he felt more valued and received a $30,000 increase in salary. Not to mention the fact that he started dating again.
Lori made her list and realized that, among a whole host of smaller things, she was putting up with a boyfriend she didn't like that much anymore and living in a city she hated. She promptly broke up with the guy and moved to another city two weeks later. Not everyone can take such rapid action, but if you can, why not? Once she realized how much it was costing her, she wasn't willing to put up with anything less than she deserved. Now she is living in a comfortable home in Chicago and dating until she finds just the right guy.
Robert made his list of annoyances and called me back the next week to say he couldn't believe what a difference it made to get rid of all the little pesky stuff in his life. He replaced the lightbulb for the fridge, which had been burned out for over a year. He threw out a very moldy shower curtain and bought a new one. He sewed on missing buttons and threw out clothes that were stained or torn. He had his shoes resoled. Robert confessed that he thought these little things weren't that important and that he would casually dismiss them, thinking he would be better off spending his time focusing on the bigger goals. After getting rid of twenty-three things that he had been tolerating, he got a tremendous burst of energy and began building a deck off the back porcha project he had been saying he was going to do for the past three years. His wife was thrilled.
Once when I was leading a telephone seminar, I challenged the participants to come back the next week with their list of everything they were tolerating and to eliminate the biggest one on the list. One guy came back and he was practically bouncing off the walls with energy. In writing down his list, the first thing he realized was that he wasn't happy with the therapist he had been using. He stopped seeing that one and hired a different therapist with whom he really felt comfortable. He had been tolerating this ineffective relationship for nine months.
Some people sit down to write their list and have great trouble getting started. In 99 percent of the cases, this isn't because they don't have any pesky annoyances in their lives, but rather that they are so numb to them that they can't even think of them. Once you eliminate one item, another petty annoyance that you hadn't even realized you were putting up with comes to mind. Sometimes it helps to think of the different categories of things you toleratewhat are you tolerating about work, home, your friends and family, your pets, your body, your own habits?
The next trick is to lump the things you are tolerating together and see how you could eliminate a whole bunch of them at once. For example, John was tolerating not making enough money, a messy desk at work, his boss, not having enough responsibility, and not getting enough acknowledgment, among other things. He realized that if he got a different job, he would wipe out a whole pack of annoyances at once. He cleaned off his desk, then talked to his boss about the possibilities of working in another department where he would have more responsibilities. He got the transfer and a few months later a salary increase to match his increased responsibilities.
You may find that you are putting up with something for a very good reason. Jessica worked like a demon to eliminate her entire list of eighty-nine annoyances. She was very proud of her accomplishment but was a bit discouraged on our next call. Now that she had eliminated all the piddling stuff that had been bothering her, she realized the big one that was staring her in the faceshe was having trouble in her marriage of twenty-seven years. She had been hiding from the fact that the relationship wasn't working even though she knew she'd have to deal with it if she was to be successful in her business and happy in her life. All the little things she had been tolerating distracted her from the big issues in her life.
When you finish your list, you will find that a number of things seem beyond your control and you don't know how to fix them. Not to worry, just leave them on the list and work on the ones you can do something about. I gave this assignment to my sister before I realized it wasn't a good idea to coach one's own family. She made her list and showed it to me, and when I told her I was sorry, I shouldn't coach her, she never pursued it. One of the items on her list was her cubicle mate at work. Without doing anything, she was given a different partner a month later. You will find that if you write your list, stuff it in a drawer, and come back to it a month later, you'll be able to cross some stuff off even though you weren't working on it. So whatever you do, at least write the darn list!
2. Plug the Energy Drains
"Cocaine habit-forming? Of course not. I ought to know. I've
been using it for years."
Once you start eliminating what you are putting up with (Tip 1), you will see just how much energy those petty annoyances were taking from you. Just like the hum of an air conditioner: you don't realize how loud it really is until you turn it off. Lots of things drain our precious energy, and we aren't even aware of it. Take TV, for example. When was the last time you felt zippy and alive after watching TV? Tabloid papers have a lot of negative, gossipy news that can drain your energy. Needy relationships will take up inordinate amounts of your time and energy. As will any and all addictions, including alcohol, sugar, shopping, computer games, caffeine, gambling, smoking, chocolate, TV, sexyou know which ones are yours. I'm not saying you can't have a cup of coffee once in a while, but more than three cups a week and it's an addiction.
I didn't think I was addicted to coffee. I didn't even like it that much and only had one cup a day, in the morning. When I decided to give it up, I thought it would be easy. After three days of skull-splitting, mind-numbing headaches (and I don't usually get headaches), I realized this was a powerful drug, not just a nice cup of coffee. Try it yourself and see. Plus, if you are interested in losing weight, studies show that caffeine causes insulin production to go up, which increases fat storage. Now that I've given up caffeine, my energy is more even and balanced throughout the day, and I don't buzz around in the morning thinking I'm accomplishing a lot when I'm really not. Feeling stressed, under the gun? Definitely not the time for coffee. It will make things worse, exacerbating the stress you already feel. When you give up caffeine, plan on getting headaches. One client, formerly a coffee aficionado, swears by this technique: stop coffee, but drink as much tea as you want for one month and then switch to herbal tea. He finds he now has more energy and feels much more relaxed.
Another client, a senior editor at a publishing house, was addicted to sugar and found herself headed for the vending machines a couple times a day. She decided to quit cold turkey. Anytime she felt inclined to head to the vending machines for a candy bar and a coke, she just told herself, "Sugar isn't going to help. In fact, it will just makes things worse." This mantra worked for her. Sugar was a way for her to get a quick energy burst, and it was also a way to put off work on a difficult project. Instead she focused on the task at hand or addressed the project head-on. Not only did she lose weight, but she discovered she was even more productive at work.
What are the seductive energy drains in your life? Don't be shy about getting support. There are all sorts of excellent 12-step programs that help people get over their addictionsCODA for codependency issues, AA for alcohol, AlAnon for family members of alcoholics, OA for overeaters. There is something for everyone. Get the support you need to eliminate this energy drain once and for all. If you think you can manage your addictions on your own, make a list and eliminate one each month until you are free.
Addictions take over your life and are extremely difficult to stop on your own. If you try doing it on your own and fail, do not despair. This does not mean that you have no willpower or are a weak and terrible person. Stop beating yourself up about it. All it means is that you really are addicted and the only thing missing is a really powerful support system to help you break it. A hint from an herbalist friend: most addictions are associated with rituals. Part of the pleasure of smoking marijuana is getting out the paper and rolling the joint. If you want to quit smoking pot, it helps to create a new, healthy ritual to replace the old one. I don't know, perhaps you could make origami designs out of the paper? Take some time to create a new ritual that you will enjoy instead. If you do have an addiction that starts to consume your life, coaching won't work because the addiction will be running your life, not you.
3. Install Ten Daily Habits
"Good habits, which bring our lower passions and appetites under
automatic control, leave our natures free to explore the larger experiences
of life. Too many of us divide and dissipate our energies in
debating actions which should be taken for granted."
Ralph W. Sockman
Most of us have a few bad habits that really don't nurture and support us. They might even have evolved from a habit to an addiction, as my daily cup of coffee did before I even realized it. Experts say that to break a habit you need to replace it with a different habit, or you might go right back to the old habit. Ideally you want to replace a bad habit with a good habit"good" meaning that it gives you energy rather than drains your energy. What are ten pleasures that you could put in place on a daily basis that you'd look forward to doing? Perhaps you'd like to spend fifteen minutes of quiet time to plan your day, or on creative thought? How about a stretch for ten minutes after you get home from work to get the kinks out? Or you may want to walk or bike to work instead of driving. Try eating lunch outside under a tree instead of at the cafeteria. Or packing your own lunch instead of buying it or eating at a fast-food place. Experiment with going to bed a half hour earlier and getting up a half hour earlier. The idea here is not to put in place a "should" habitsomething you think you should dobut rather a habit you'd love to do, something that would be a treat for you. This will be different for each person. Most people are so stressed out when they begin this assignment that they can't even think of ten pleasurable habits. This was true for me. I had completely lost touch with what I enjoyed doing. (This was around the time when I was hoping I'd get hit by a bus on the way to work so I could lie in traction in the hospital for a while.) I couldn't think of anything except "shoulds" like "I should exercise daily," or "I should eat more veggies." This didn't light me up or turn me on so I had to think back to what I used to do for fun. My list of ten daily habits ended up as a combination of some fun things and some things I knew I needed to implement on a regular basis:
1. Walk to work instead of taking the subway. (I timed it and found that the subway took forty minutes, and I could walk door to door in one hour. I figured for an extra twenty minutes, I'd gain an hour of exercise and save a buck-fifty. This ended up becoming a sort of walking meditation for me.)
2. Floss daily (sort of a "should," but I don't mind flossing and it definitely makes my teeth happy).
3. Call a friend or send a note of thanks daily.
4. Eat an exotic fresh fruit (raspberries, strawberries, a mango, a papaya, a juicy pear).
5. Do one "pamper me" thing daily (a bubble bath, a manicure, a new magazine, a walk in the park, fresh flowers for the office).
6. Take a vitamin C and a multivitamin (a pretty easy one).
7. Do daily back exercises (I had lower back pain and these kept me mobile).
8. Tell someone "I love you" every day.
9. Spend fifteen minutes to plan my day every morning.
10. Clean my desk off before leaving the office every evening.
If you are having trouble breaking a bad habit or starting a good habit, you may want to create a visual display to chart your progress. It doesn't really matter what you use as a visual display, but you need some daily visual reminder to keep you on target. For example, in her book Inner Simplicity, Elaine St. James suggests using the gold star method. If you liked getting a gold star when you were in kindergarten, you can still employ this technique or create any other visual display. Here's what you do: give yourself a gold star for every day that you successfully did something. Suppose you want to stop watching TV (Tip 32). Every day that you don't watch TV, give yourself a gold star. Put it on a wall calendar that is clearly visible. You don't have to tell anyone else what you are working on; in fact it is better not to tell anyonekeep it to yourself so you won't have someone nagging at you. Once you have a whole month of gold stars, give yourself a special rewardjust make sure it is not the habit you just broke. Or maybe you'd like to design a bar graph to record your results. Some clients cut out pictures from magazines and create a collage that inspires them to stick to their new habits. One of my clients sent himself an automatic E-mail reminder to send out a thank-you every day until it became a habit. Our lives are usually so full of things that it is helpful to have a daily reminder until your new habit becomes as natural as brushing your teeth. It may be easiest to work on installing one new habit at a time if ten seems overwhelming.
This may sound silly, but it really helps to have some sort of visual display or to make a minicontest or game out of it. Kendall, an athletic client, was addicted to sugar and did the gold star technique for every day without sugar. He didn't want to see a blank day on the calendar. The visual display not only shows you in black and white just how well you've really done, but it motivates you to keep on going. He used to keep track in his head and was sure that he gave himself a better score than he really achieved. It is easy to forget the French toast with maple syrup or the handful of mints if you aren't keeping track. The longer you go, the more powerful it becomes. After two weeks without sugar, he didn't want to ruin a perfect run of gold stars. This technique also works for installing a good habit, like walking the dog or eating three fresh vegetables a day. Write down a list of ten daily pleasures and start enjoying yourself every day.
4. Eliminate the "Shoulds"
"To be good, according to the vulgar standard of goodness, is
obviously quite easy. It merely requires a certain amount of sordid
terror, a certain lack of imaginative thought, and a certain
low passion for middle-class respectability."
The "shoulds" are those things we think we have to do, gotta do, but don't really want to do. For example, I should lose weight. I should exercise. I should network more. I should wear a size 6 dress. I should be making more money. I should learn to speak a foreign language. I should do this, that, or the other thing. All these "shoulds" are killing you, weighing you down and keeping you from getting on with the really interesting stuff in your life. I'm sure you could make up a nice little list right now and I recommend that you do. And then crumple it up, wad it into a ball, and burn it. Yes, you got it. You must get rid of the "shoulds." They are weighing you down, getting you nowhere, and sapping your precious life energy. Far better to think up a whole list of new goals that really turn you on and ditch the "shoulds."
How can you tell if it is a real goal or a "should" goal? Well, one surefire way is to ask yourself, "How old is this goal?" If you've had it for a year or more, then it is a "should" goal that is completely lifeless. You don't want that dead goal hanging around one minute longer. Get rid of it! And I mean now! Ah, but you protest, if I give up my goal to lose weight then I'll never lose weight. Well, that may be true, but you've been saying you need to lose weight for how many years now? I don't think this is ever going to happen so you might as well give it up and replace it with something that you are really interested in creating. At this suggestion, a few of my clients gleefully get rid of the old goal, but most want to keep it. It's amazing how attached we get to these "shoulds." If you've gotten along this far in life as a size 12, who cares if you are a size 6? If you have gotten along fine without speaking French, then perhaps you don't need to keep this goal around any longer. If they still hang on, then I say it is time to expand the goal into one that will turn you on. For example, instead of focusing on losing weight, how about making a goal to take extremely good care of yourself? This means the whole package: see a nutritionist for a food plan that will work for you; get a personal trainer to get your butt off the sofa; see a massage therapist bimonthly or weekly; get a regular facial; sign up for the jazz dance class you've always wanted; hang around with people who eat the way you'd like to eat and have healthy habits, and start spending less time with friends whose habits don't support the new ones you'd like to incorporate. This goal is suddenly a whole lot more fun, full of life, than "I really should lose weight."
So go down your list of "shoulds" and throw out as many as you can. If you really feel you can't, see how you can delegate it. Suppose you really should exercise, and you feel that you can't in good conscience cross it off. Well, hire a personal trainer, join a walking clubDO something, but don't let it sit there weighing you down as a "should." Or suppose you think you should get a better job, but just haven't gotten motivated yet. Update your résumé (you can even hire an expert to do this for you), get it to a headhunter, and let him or her find you a new job. If you aren't ready to update your résumé, network, contact a recruiter, or go on interviews, then you may as well forget this goal too. Far better to delete and move on. You'll feel much lighter immediately.
Sandy, a forty-five-year-old social worker, hired me because she had recently divorced and wanted to find a new man. She wanted to start working out and to lose weight but just couldn't seem to get started. She would go to the gym sporadically, but it wasn't enough. Sandy blamed herself for a lack of discipline and willpower. I suggested that willpower was entirely unnecessary if she had an effective structure for support. I encouraged her to set up a support system that would make it easy for her to work out. She was a very conscientious person, and I knew that if she had an appointment to meet a friend at the gym, she wouldn't miss it. She put her gym bag in the car so she'd be able to go directly after work, because she knew herself well enough to know that if she went home first, she'd never make it back out again. Sandy made an appointment with a girlfriend who was also committed to getting back in shape. They met at the gym and ended up doing thirty-five minutes of exercise. Sandy felt terrific. Her colleagues at work noticed her enthusiasm and one particularly handsome man asked her if she'd like to go running together. One thing led to another and soon Sandy not only lost eight pounds, but she was exercising regularly and had a great-looking exercise buddy.
What are your tired old goals? If you haven't done anything about them in the past year, get rid of them or reinvent them. I highly recommend that if you have had weight loss as a goal for years that you just get rid of it. Remember, you can always pick it up again later, but give yourself a break and let go of that burden for awhile. Another client, Howard, gave up his weight loss goals and took up tai chi instead. I met him for lunch a few months later and even though he wasn't any thinner, he looked more relaxed, confident, and attractive. Why struggle if it isn't making a difference anyway?
Another client, Jim, was a dynamic mortgage broker and a great listmaker. Every year he would make an astonishing number of New Year's resolutions. This year, he showed me his list of twenty-five goals, and I asked him to review it for any goals over a year old and; in addition, to delete any "shoulds." He pared the list down to four key goals that he was really excited about working on, and he felt a surprising relief. Get rid of the dead goals now, as they will only slow you down the rest of the year.
5. Establish Big Boundaries
"The way in which a person loses their true goodness is
just like the way that trees are destroyed by the ax. Cut
down day after day, how can the mind, anymore than the
tree, retain its beauty or continue to live."
Mencius, fourth century b.c.
It is almost impossible to be successful without firm and clear boundaries. We naturally respect people who have strong boundaries. Boundaries are simply the things people can't do to you, lines that will protect you and allow you to be your best. For example, most people have in place the boundary that it is not okay for anyone to hit them. Now we know that some folks don't even have this boundary in placewe've heard about or know people who stay in abusive relationships for whatever reason. These people are missing the basic boundary, "You can't hit me." Okay, let's assume you have this boundary in place and people don't hit you. Do people yell at you? Well, that is only one level out from hittingnot a whole lot of protection. You need to expand your boundary from people can't hit me to people can't yell at me. Not even your boss, certainly not your lover or spouse.
Susan, a sales assistant at a retail shop, was having a tough time with an extremely demanding boss who thought nothing of blowing off steam by ranting and raving at her subordinates. She would yell at Susan for making even the smallest error. Susan also allowed her colleagues to tease her about her midwestern expressions and accent. A friend of hers would take advantage of her and crash at her house whenever he didn't feel like going home. All of this is a simple case of missing boundaries. Once Susan decided it was no longer acceptable that people yell at her, make her the butt end of a joke, or take advantage of her, everything began to turn around. Her colleagues stopped teasing her and her friends stopped taking advantage of her. As a side bonus, she got a big promotion at work to sales executive because now her boss, her colleagues, and even her clients had more respect for her. How did she do this? She simply informed them, using the four-step communication model in Tip 6.
Boundaries work equally well at home. A client's boyfriend had a hot temper and he would get angry on occasion and yell at her. She thought this was normal and something that had to be tolerated. I asked her to expand her boundary. It was not okay for him to yell at her for any reason. She explained to him that she loved him and would never intentionally harm him or hurt him in any way. The only reason he should be angry with her was if she intentionally tried to hurt him. So if she was ten minutes late for a date, he could let her know it bothered him without being angry or yelling. At first he was still used to his old ways and so of course he started to yell when he was upset with her. She calmly informed him that he was yelling at her and asked him how much longer he needed to be angry. Five minutes? Thirty minutes? She'd be back when he calmed down. He realized how silly it was and started to laugh.
Once you have this boundary in place and you find that people don't yell at you, try expanding it even further so that people can't give you unsolicited criticism, or make derogatory remarks or jokes at your expense. Even if these remarks are meant in fun, they aren't funny. This type of comment hurts and it just isn't acceptable. Derogatory jokes and comments diminish you, taking away your energy and reducing your ability to attract the things you want in life. Do not allow this!
Now you are probably thinking, "This sounds great, but what do you do when someone yells at you or shows up late or takes advantage of you?" You know this is your new boundary, but how do they know? It's simple, you just need to learn how to protect yourself gracefully. So read on.
6. Protect Yourself Gracefully
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
A simple four-step communication model that I learned at Coach University will help you protect yourself from unpleasant comments. Whenever someone does something that hurts you or bothers you, you are allowing that. Here is how to stop this behavior in a graceful and effective manner. (Ladies, pay attention; we tend to be particularly weak in this department.)
1. Inform. "Do you realize that you are yelling?" or, "Do you realize that comment hurt me?" or, "I didn't ask for your feedback." If they continue with the unwanted behavior, then take it up to step 2. but only after you've tried step 1.
2. Request. Ask them to stop. "I ask that you stop yelling at me now," or, "I ask that you only give me constructive feedback." If they still don't get it and the behavior continues, try step 3.
3. Demand or insist. "I insist that you stop yelling at me now." If they still persist, you take it to the next level.
4. Leave (without any snappy comebacks or remarks). "I can't continue this conversation while you are yelling at me. I am going to leave the room." If you are in a relationship and the other person doesn't change his or her behavior after you've tried this model numerous times, you may need to leave the relationship and/or get a therapist. The people who really love you will respect your boundaries.
The key to success with these four steps is to say them in a neutral tone of voice. Do not raise your voice up or down. Keep it calm and flat. You know when you've got a little charge or fire or judgment or anger in your tone. Remember, you are informing the other person. Think of going through the four steps in the same way you'd say, "The sky is blue." No emotion, no excitement, just a neutral tone of voice. You can say just about anything to anybody if you say it in a neutral manner.
Now Susan (from Tip 5) had some ammunition ready for the next time her boss yelled at her. She used this four-step model to inform her boss in a neutral tone of voice. Be careful here. You could risk your job if you don't have this tone of voice down pat so practice on friends and family until you are sure you can do it. Susan made a small mistake at the office the next day, and as usual, her boss began to rant and rave. Susan very calmly, without the slightest hint of sarcasm or judgment in her voice, replied, "Do you realize that you are yelling at me?" This stopped her boss right in her tracks. Then Susan said, "I really want to do my very best work for you, and find that I work best when you point out my errors in a calm voice." Susan's boss immediately calmed down, apologized, and later took her out to lunch. This is a very powerful and attractive way to communicate.
At this point, you are probably thinking, "Well, that is fine for Susan, but I could never speak to my boss that way." Quite frankly, that is what all my clients say when I tell them that they need to inform their bosses they have just crossed a boundary. The key to dealing with your boss is to use a completely neutral tone of voice and to be extremely tactful. Never correct your boss, or anyone for that matter, in front of another person and especially not in a meeting. Being casual and subtle is also good. You don't want to make a big deal out of your boss's behavior. For example, one client, Lee, a branch manager, felt that his boss, the division executive, was always micromanaging him and had stepped over the bounds by scheduling a meeting with one of his employees without checking with him first. He obviously didn't want to offend the division executive who would be determining the size of his bonus later on. At the same time, he was frustrated by his manager's seeming disregard for his need to manage his own branch. The next day his manager called him about some reports and Lee casually mentioned, "John, my teller, said that you had scheduled a meeting with him. It would make job scheduling easier if, in the future, you'd let me know of such meetings." That was it. Lee used a straightforward informing tone that very subtly let his boss know she had just crossed a boundary. And believe me, he was scared to death to do it, but it did the trick. The next time the division executive wanted a meeting, she called Lee first and set it up through him.
As for the micromanaging, I told Lee to find out what reports his boss wanted and, even if she didn't want them, to type up a brief memo of the results and sales activities of the week so she would be informed of everything that was going on. I also asked Lee to set up weekly meetings with his manager either by phone or in person to give regular updates of what was happening. After one month of this, his division executive said that monthly meetings would be sufficient and that he could discontinue his weekly reports. Lee had won the confidence and trust of his manager and now had the independence to do his job.
Another client, Marcia, had recently made a huge transition from being a full-time engineer and the primary breadwinner of the family to being a full-time mother of three children. She had decided at the birth of her third child to quit her job and take a few months off to enjoy motherhood and get started on her home-based business. The sudden and dramatic reduction of income was stressful, and Marcia felt guilty that she was spending but not earning money for the family. To compound matters, she discovered that people would make little comments all the time about her that made her feel bad, such as, "Well, you're not working now so you should have plenty of time to bring in clients for your business." Or comments that diminished her sense of accomplishment, such as, "It must be nice to hang around the house with the kids all day and have your husband support you now." I pointed out that she was missing the boundary that people can't disparage her work. This was a revelation and she immediately put it in place. The next day her husband had to take her to the hospital, and when the nurse asked what Marcia did her husband said, "She stays at home." Marcia felt diminished by this comment but realized the boundary had been crossed. Later, she informed her husband about the comment he had made at the hospital. He didn't mean it in a negative way at all, but just thought it was the easiest response. Marcia asked him in the future to say that she was a business consultant and to give out her office number. He was glad to do this.
Which brings up another point. When you inform people, the whole point is to give them a graceful exit. However, oftentimes we don't let them take it. This defeats the whole purpose. Let me demonstrate. Take the example with Marcia. When Marcia's husband replied, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it to sound that way," Marcia might have said, "Yes, you did! You rat fink #@$%%!" Don't laughwe've all been guilty of this. Let them off the hook. If they don't apologize, it is okay to ask for one. "I'd like an apology for that." Sometimes an apology isn't enough, and you may need to ask them to make amends. "I appreciate your apology for spilling red wine on my linen suit, but I'd also like you to pay the dry-cleaning bill."
Our natural tendency is to skip steps 1 and 2 and go right to 3 or 4usually not in a neutral tone of voice, either. The trick to staying neutral is to address things on the spot (Tip 7).
The good news is that eventually you won't even need these boundariespeople wouldn't think of making an unkind remark to you. There is another interesting side effect to enforcing your boundaries. We assume that enforcing a boundary will make people dislike us or think we are pushy or aggressive or perhaps demanding. However, it is the exact opposite. When you have strong boundaries in place, people will stop treating you like a doormat and start respecting you. You'll be the kind of person people naturally respect and treat courteously. When I was a little girl in the first grade, a big bully of a fifth-grader (and you know how big fifth-graders look when you are in first grade) was always picking on me and threatening me. I told my dad, and he taught me how to throw a punch. One day on the playground Mark was with a bunch of his friends and started to taunt me. I spun around and punched him right in the nose. To my own shock and amazement, he fell flat on his back and had a bloody nose. His friends stood around him, jaws agape, as shocked as I was. I was terrified that they would tear me from limb to limb and decided to get out of Dodge and literally skipped off. The next day at school I was wary, but to my complete amazement, Mark came up to me and treated me with great respect. He stopped bullying me, and we actually became friends and went frog catching together. Once he went to buy my next-door neighbor friend, Jamie, and me a soda and he dropped one of them on the way back. He gave the dropped one to her, not to me. I had won his respect. This kindergarten story is a great example of how effective and powerful boundaries are. Now of course I'm not suggesting that you go around punching people in the nosebut do start informing and requesting.
At some level people know when they are doing a number on you and they don't really want to get away with it. If you let them get away it, not only do you diminish yourself, but you also diminish them. What boundaries would you like to put in place now that you know how to protect yourself gracefully? See if you can come up with at least five and write them down.
Excerpted from Coaching Para el Exito by Talane Miedaner Copyright © 2002 by Talane Miedaner. Excerpted by permission.
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