Interpersonal Edge:Make office adversary your new best friend
Saturday, April 18, 2015

 By Dr. Daneen Skube

Tribune Content Agency

  Q: There’s one guy in my office who drives me up a wall. He’s self-centered, arrogant and always putting others down. I’ve tried rising above it, but that doesn’t work. I try feeling sorry for him and that doesn’t work. The truth is, I’d like to tar and feather him and ride him out of town. How do you work with someone you truly detest?

  A: To work with someone you truly detest, start out internally allowing all of your really nasty emotional reactions to be present. You don’t need to externally act out these feelings. Rather than rising above negative feelings, pettiness, or revenge plots, sit down and have lunch with your feelings. 

   The Sufi poet Rumi commented on the spiritual inspiration found in our most negative reactions. He observed in his poem “The Guesthouse,” that it’s critical to greet all our emotions with curiosity and openness. Regarding feelings, he stated:

  “Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whatever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”

  Now, the last thing in the world most of us believe is that our negative feelings could actually be sent as a guide to inner work we need to do from some universal source of wisdom. Mostly we judge ourselves for the fact we even have negative feelings. Somehow we believe we should only be happy, peaceful, patient and without judgment. Show me someone who says they can do this and I’ll show you someone who’s lying!

  Our work world is crazy wrong with the theory that only bad people have bad feelings. The truth is that absolutely everybody has bad feelings. The people who act well are more likely to acknowledge and get to know their negative feelings so they have the impulse control to not act badly when they feel badly.

  The silly and impossible idea that we should rise above our negative emotions is the cause of most suffering in our workplaces. When we all go to work pretending to be mature, the irrational child in us is free to roam the office corridor. When you go into your office on Monday, look around and see how many “children” in your organization are running around creating chaos while the adult in them is pretending to be mature.

  Since being around our adversary makes it crystal clear that we feel like a baby, we actually get a shot at admitting emotions that are going on everywhere else, as well. Once we can admit what we feel, we can respond differently to the challenge our adversary triggers within us.

  The people we hate are the people who make us feel the way we already feel, but don’t like to admit. Everyone has a different nightmare they’d like to avoid. For some, it’s the fear that you truly are an idiot; for others, it’s that you don’t deserve to ask for anything; and for still others, it’s that you should never have any needs. These messages are the ones we thought our parents gave us, and as adults, anything that reeks of these themes makes us want to run for the hills or fight to the death.

  Believe it or not, your worst adversary is perfectly constructed to show you the nightmare you avoid. I will sometimes tease my clients that they’d have to pay someone a lot of money to get them to show up and drive my client this crazy, but their adversary is willing to do it for free.

  The next time your enemy behaves badly, ask yourself, “What nightmare do you enter when you adversary triggers you?” Realize that this belief is probably irrational, but nevertheless it currently has great power over you emotionally. 

  Now, ask yourself how long you’ve feared that this nightmare is true? When do you first remember believing this idea about yourself? Who do you believe told you these things during your life?

  Lastly, ask yourself if everyone has agreed with this idea? If not, who disagreed? Ask yourself what you’d do if God came down in a burning bush and told you this wasn’t true?

  Now, consider that you actually have the freedom once you can see the jail you’ve kept yourself in, to keep acting in ways that reinforce your misery - or to stop. The next time someone accuses you of acting in the way you most fear...agree with them. They’ll be surprised and completely stop.

  If anyone in your workplace says you’re “insert intolerable insult here,” and you calmly look at them and say, “You might be right,” notice how you just took all the wind out of their sails. Realize that you now have the freedom to stop arguing if you’re no longer arguing with your most important adversary - yourself.

  The last word(s)

  Q: Is there any easy way to get a career that pays what you want that you also love?

  A: The short answer is, “No,” and the long answer is, “Noooooooooooooooo!”

 Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel’s “Workplace Guru” each Monday morning. She’s the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.




 This column was printed in the April 19, 2015 - May 2, 2015 edition.



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