“People may forget what you said, but they will never forget the way you made them feel.”
Carl W. Buehner
There will be times when we find ourselves in less than optimal situations. There are steps we must go through to accept where we are and move forward in a positive manner.
Often, our first steps are to feel the disappointment, anger or frustration for where we are. Then, we start using words that express an acceptance we do not yet feel. Eventually, we internalize our new reality, living that acceptance and letting our negative emotions go.
We think and act until we can become. This is not “fake it ‘till you make it.” Instead, it’s making a concerted effort to change, knowing it will come over time.
During this evolution, however, there can be a mismatch between our words, actions and feelings.
The risk of misalignment
People can sense how we really feel. What we really believe in. Even if our words say something different.
When it comes to conversing with a stakeholder, customer or employee, when our words and feelings do not match, they may suppose we are lying, eroding trust.
For example, we may feel disappointment, anger or frustration about our current role, yet we want to be considered in a positive light for a new one. In spite of our best intentions, the negative emotions are what we project, in contradiction to our wish to be seen positively by an interviewer. This disconnect can sabotage our aspirations.
To be viewed genuinely, we need to align our words and feelings. Yet, it may take time to get to that place.
While aligning our thoughts and feelings can take time, there are a few things we can do to accelerate the process.
Engage a sounding board
Talking with others can help us move past a challenging experience or view it differently. Engaging both Advocates and Challengers is often beneficial.
Advocates validate our thoughts and feelings. They are best engaged once we have started to let go of our initial negative emotions and help us plan a positive way forward.
Challengers are more likely to present us with alternate views of our situation and provide honest, critical feedback. They are perfect for providing the kick in the pants necessary to take the first step past a negative experience.
Our truth is not the only truth in a given situation. When something affects us, we may take it very personally. However, another’s actions are rarely only about us, no matter how we feel about it.
It helps to have compassion for ourselves, knowing it’s normal to be upset when plans go awry or we find ourselves in a bad situation. Compassion for others allows us to look at things from their perspective. Ultimately, we all do the best we can in any situation, and may not realize the impact we can have on others.
We can fight where we are and what has happened, or we can accept reality, including the choices and actions that got us here.
Instead of focusing on the negative of our situation, we can consider possible learnings. If we can find a positive, or even a neutral way of thinking about the current situation, our language can better align with our feelings on it.
For example, if we are in a role that makes us miserable, we can consider the following:
- What was it about this role that was appealing?
- What is it about the role that I no longer enjoy, or that I want to avoid in future positions?
- What hard or soft skills can I develop while I’m here?
- What positives exist in this role or organization that I can benefit from?
The goal is to frame our responses in honest, but neutral language, that is aligned to our feelings. An example of neutral language may be “This role was not a good fit for me” with supporting reasons why.
Bringing it all together
A few years ago, I was offered an opportunity to build four organizations. One of them I had done many times before, and my interest was low. However, the other three were new and a challenge I couldn’t pass up.
When I joined, I was asked to start with the build I had done before, and create plans for the other three.
A few months in, the first build was well underway and foundations for the other three were started. Then I got word we would only focus on the first build, and to halt the others.
I was very upset. I felt as though the position had been presented inaccurately, and I sold it to my team incorrectly as a result.
I took time to vent to a trusted sounding board – one who validated my view of the situation, but also challenged me to consider it differently.
My mindset shift had started, but was not where I needed it to be. I could not yet view the situation neutrally, jeopardizing any new opportunities. Also, I had a good relationship with the executive that offered me the role. I did not want to burn that bridge.
I forced myself to look at the situation with compassion. The executive was telling me the truth as she knew it at the time. The organization was in the midst of a lot of change, and my builds were not as critical as other work in progress. Ultimately, the decision was not about me.
Once I could be objective, I met with the executive. She agreed with my assessment, and supported my desire to move into another role. Soon after, I was in a new position and the executive transitioned from manager to mentor.
While I was frustrated for a period of time, accepting the reality of the situation, and coming up with neutral language to describe it, meant my feelings and words could align. This was critical in obtaining the support I needed to move forward successfully.
Disappointment, frustration and anger are normal, healthy emotions. The challenge is moving past them quickly to find a positive way forward. Changing our words will begin to change our mindset, but we need to change our hearts as well.
With time, this alignment may occur naturally. However, by engaging sounding boards, practicing acceptance and focusing on compassion, we can accelerate our transition to a new mindset and new opportunities.
Do you have techniques for aligning your thoughts and feelings regarding a disappointing or frustrating situation? Please share your thoughts and keep the conversation going.