Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Don't give others power over you...

Sure, people regularly irritate us all.  Each of us has at least one person who we could call our "thorn in the flesh."  That's life, and it is part of all of life.  But what I've learned over the years is that changing my behavior because of another persons behavior has never served me well.  That's because if I do I have given that person power over me.

An simple example of this concept is being irritated by an action of another driver on the road.  We often get angry, maybe shout, and all the while the other driver just simply moves along completely ignorant of our disdain. But our blood pressure has risen and our mood affected. It's kind of a waste.

While this concept applies to all aspects of life, I will focus on folks who live and work in IT, since it's where I spend the most of my time.

I'm continually amazed at how many people stunt their careers by choosing not to work with others simply because people irritate them so much.  I've seen promising IT folks become as bad of an HR burden as those that they dislike, because they are so heavily affected by the behavior of others.

I know this from experience.  I've had events in my career where I've tried to aggressively make a statement regarding someone's behavior, or gone off on someone just to prove my point.  In each case, I was the one who ended up paying for it, and ultimately they were not worth it.

I've seen it in IT circles over and over again.  Someone's behavior, speech, or what they outwardly represent so annoys someone that they often become like that person. A great example of this was a coworker some years ago that had tremendous potential for leadership.  He was and is an extremely talented individual.  Yet this person let everyone's behavior bother him so much that he himself became uncooperative, difficult to deal with, and anything but a team player. Nobody wanted to deal with him as a result.

Here's what is interesting, and it's true over and over again: His behavior did not in any way change the behavior of those who annoyed him.  Instead, the behavior of others changed him.  And for the period of time he was employed there, it hurt his internal career opportunities significantly.  As a result of his reactions, nobody wanted to deal with him. In essence, he had given those people power over him, and it hurt his career and his life at that time.

Fortunately, this individual eventually grew through this.  He learned that by giving people that much power over him that he was only hurting himself, not doing what is best for him.  He has since gone on to be quite successful elsewhere in the industry. 

Since then, I've had the fortunate opportunity to counsel many with these thoughts, and hopefully have been able to help them.  While individuals who work for a company are there to serve that company, I tell them that in order to do that well, they must also serve themselves, and one of the ways to do that is by being as free as possible from the negative power of others.  Think of it as a game: Even though this mostly isn't true, visualize that people that are irritating you are doing everything they can to give themselves power over you. And if you let them do that and it affects your behavior, they win.  In turn, if you focus on serving yourself, doing what is best for you and your career and not let those people bring you down into their "trap", then you win.

It's a game we all have to play all of our lives.  Whether it's a co-worker, a boss, a politician, these folks will (mostly unintentionally) "try" to control us.  And we have to constantly fight that control.  We can't surrender that power to them.

The same principle, by the way, applies to forgiveness.  If we can't forgive, ultimately we are the ones that are damaged.

For me personally, my life goal is to become truly free.  Free from fear, free from the power of others, freely forgiving, completely letting go.  This is a huge part of this goal, and by writing this I am in no way saying I've mastered it.

There's an old saying, "Don't own what you don't control."  While I'm not endorsing the enabling of behavior, if you can't change it positively or have a positive influence, don't let it own you.  The most powerful thing you can do to a person is ignore them.  While I'm not saying that's easy to do with co-workers, the principle that applies is to do everything you can to "take the high road" and try your best to not give them power over you.