These last couple of weeks have been challenging for me… personally, professionally, emotionally. I knew this would be a full month – apart from my regular busy life as an entrepreneur and family-woman, I also had our retreat this month AND we are moving into a new home… It was a recipe for chaos, and definitely would have been if not for self-care, meditation and the ability to pace myself.
So what went wrong? Fortunately, nothing major, but the culmination of little things like the pink dye in my hair immediately washing out, an Etsy order not being right, having analysis paralysis about our moving company, and then our website’s checkout being down without my knowledge (okay, that one was kind of major) had begun to take its toll. My immediate inclination after yet another thing would happen, was to go to a place of victim hood, of self-pity. But yesterday, I had a beautiful realization. All of these challenges have been opportunities for me to be assertive. I’ve had to step into my own power, over and over, and even when it was uncomfortable, I couldn’t back down. Even just this shift in perspective helped me manage the challenges better. I started dialogues, I pushed back when results were unsatisfactory, I made other decisions easier (like ordering in dinner) when I had a day of big, overwhelming decisions… because something had to give.
And why should we back down?
It is okay to have expectations of the people/businesses that you interact with and if they let you down, they need to hear it. I know our goal is to leave a customer delighted – and if we don’t, we want to hear about it. In reclaiming my power and asking for better, I’m giving these individuals an opportunity to better their service, to improve their offering, to deliver a product they can be proud of. I believe that most people in business want to feel good about what they do… while for some, it may be mostly about the money, at the end of the day, the money doesn’t come if you can’t keep your customers. (Especially in the social media age when it’s incredibly easy to drag someone through the mud.)
Now… the “without being an ass” part…
This did not always happen for me this week. In the past, I was the type who was so worried about upsetting someone (especially in interpersonal relationships), or being perceived to be a bitch, that I would sit quiet when people would do wrong by me. As I’ve grown into my power, I’ve had to learn the fine line between assertive and aggressive. In this last week, there were 2 occasions where I started out assertive, but when I didn’t get the response I’d hoped for, I lashed out. I was harsh, uncensored. My primary goal shifted from making things right to making the person feel bad – and that I’m not proud of. My personal pet peeve is when people are not accountable. It makes me so angry when someone can’t just own up to letting you down, and then doing their best to make it right. However I also need to remind myself that not everyone is the same as me, and there are reasons people choose to not assume responsibility for their actions (like fear of litigation for instance). While it still makes me upset, I could have better handled those situations with tact, diplomacy and compassion.
So how does one solve conflict assertively when they’re still in Ass-Mode?
- Don’t respond when you’re still angry. I definitely could have used a breather before responding to the people I was dealing with. Having a break gives you the perspective to see things from an angle other than your own, and to convey what you’re feeling without the added heat from your fiery rage.
- With the benefit of a some distance and a few long deep breaths, can you see it from their side? Is there validity in however they’ve behaved? Even if you don’t agree with them, can you feel where they’re coming from?
- Have clear boundaries. State your needs and expectations and make sure you’re understood. Often what we perceive as a slight is just a miscommunication. Sometimes it becomes a teaching exercise where you’re helping someone (or a business), know how to work with you. Teachers are clear, they keep the message simple, and they make sure everyone understands before moving on. If you want this to be an ongoing relationship, everyone needs a copy of the rule book so you know you’re on the same page.
So… did I need to critique the tech support person’s grammar in my ticket… No. That was ass-mode. Did I need to tell her that she could use some compassion when offering customer service…. Yes. That will help her to grow. We’re human, we’ll screw up, but we can always try to do better next time. It’s definitely easier to be diplomatic when everything isn’t hitting you at once, but always do your best… always strive for kindness. You never know what is happening in the life of the person on the other side of your interaction, and it could be so much worse than faded pink hair.