Refuse Unkind Words 2

Unkind

I heartily rebelled against corporation recently, and have enjoyed a taste of freedom and a slap on the wrist. Here’s the story.

I have been engaged in numerous discussions about a promotion I have been seeking over the last year. It has been mostly a blocked route due to various corporate politics. I’ve written about it in an earlier post here. Recently, the head of the department I’ve been trying to get in to was replaced. I thought “here’s my chance to revisit this!”.

So, I mentioned it to several of my superiors and they did me a good turn by putting in a word to this new person, with the suggestion that I would be a good addition to his team. The recommendations were strong, and came from credible people. Given his plans to announce a new organizational structure in coming months, the timing seemed right. This opened up a dialog between us.

The first meeting went well, until it became clear that he already had identified a candidate from his previous company that he would rather have in the position. I proposed I could do this position myself, and then the problems started.

Rather than tell me straight that this was not going to happen, he kept postponing our subsequent meeting. In fact, it got scheduled so far out, it became clear that our next meeting would follow AFTER his announcement about his new team (a tactic guaranteeing I would be out of the picture). Though his words said he was considering it, his actions were clearly designed to leave me out.

Having been treated in this dismissive and close minded way, I responded by letting him know I was no longer interested in pursuing the next meeting, and declined, given his obvious lack of interest. It was politely but firmly worded. He was apologetic, but not enough to rectify the situation by suggesting we meet earlier, further confirming he had an alternate agenda to push through his preferred team structure, regardless of what I was offering or his peers hoped for.

I felt relieved to know the answer, though it wasn’t what I had hoped. And, I felt sincerely happy to have taken a stand about how I would be treated. I would not want to go somewhere I am unwelcome, or in a position where I would be destined to fail.

Unfortunately, this also earned criticism from one of my supporters who had put in a good word, accusing me of responding in an inappropriate and harsh manner. It’s true that when one signs on to working in a corporation, they also agree to play by the social and cultural norms of that company, whether this is openly stated or not. And generally speaking, I do.

However, there comes a time when you need to break the rules of some social system in order to be true to yourself. In this case, I was offended by disrespect and not being treated in a straightforward manner. A fancy title doesn’t give you that right. Rather than hold to the company norms (a polite culture, where diplomacy is more valued than truth), I chose to hold up my own right to be treated in a respectful way.

However, the criticism from someone I had considered a supporter sent me into a spinning reflection on whether or not I was indeed difficult, harsh, inappropriate, etc as I had been accused. More than the event itself, it was the thought that I really WAS arrogant that made me belly ache. Had I done something so unforgivable?

And then, I read a wonderful article by life coach Martha Beck: Don’t Swallow Poison. In it, she invites us to refuse to internalize the thoughts that make us ill.

Well, these thoughts were definitely making me ill. It reminded me of all the people who had ever said unkind things about me simply because I chose a different path or group of friends more in alignment with my joy. Should I not be unapolgetically myself?

I did her exercise: look for irrefutable evidence in which the opposite is true. I remembered the times when I had been told about my patience, and diplomacy. About having been a kind and good leader. I remembered all the reasons my supporters had recommended me in the first place.

When someone criticizes your behavior, we often act as if what they’ve said is true. We hurt as if what they have said is factual. As if, by the mere mention of it, we are now tainted. We tend to forget that people hear and see through their own filters, and what they observe isn’t a perfect mirror of the truth. It’s quite often not even a reflection of what others witnessing the situation thought. We are not responsible for other people’s perceptions, only our own intentions.

And, I refused to swallow the poison.  Just because someone says something about you, it doesn’t make it real. Find your own truth.

What poisonous thoughts do you allow yourself to swallow?

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2 thoughts on “Refuse Unkind Words

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