Tish shines when she’s with her friends and coworkers, but around her boss she loses that shine.
“I go small the minute I step into her office!” she said. “I’m just like someone who’s been physically abused—I duck!”
Tish’s boss and her parents have some things in common. Her parents didn’t invite or make it safe for her to express her views. It appears her boss is the same way.
Tish grew up in a home where working through problems—talking things over—just wasn’t done. Instead, powder-keg overreactions were the norm. Tish found shelter in laying low . . . or by ‘ducking.’ It became her coping mechanism.
Ducking can be more than a physical response. It can also be a psychological one. Whenever we walk on eggshells or cater to someone’s moods, we’re ducking. When we’re anxious about someone’s reaction and it causes us to stifle ourselves, we’re ducking. Keeping our mouth shut when something ought to be said is a form of ducking.
Being direct, honest and straightforward can seem just too risky and threatening. But the alternative doesn’t serve us very well, either. When we make a habit of ducking, we desert ourselves. Our true self gets buried. Call it a recipe for life dissatisfaction and depression.
For example, ducking is hurting Tish’s chances of moving up in the company. It inhibits her from getting her needs met and her concerns heard and resolved.
By ducking, she’s guaranteeing she won’t be listened to.
Ducking behaviors served Tish as a child. They protected her. But today, such behaviors are a mere habit—a conditioned response—and do more harm than good. She can change, and she must, if she wants to cultivate a better scenario for herself at work and elsewhere.
I explained that the first step is to realize that there are people out there who welcome open dialogue. They don’t mind being disagreed with, and they don’t blow up or make people walk on eggshells. They care about the points of view of others, and they respect the fact that problems will crop up.
“And they look forward to jointly resolving them with you,” I said.
The next step is to stand tall. “Be the strong person you really are, Tish!”
It’s in her. She listed off plenty of examples of being her bold and bigger self. In fact, when Tish isn’t ducking, her strength, wisdom and drive are forces to be reckoned with!
Her boss needed to see that. As it was, Tish was selling herself as a pushover. Her boss couldn’t respect her because Tish wasn’t respecting herself.
Shortly after that session, Tish told me how she successfully confronted her boss about a problem—one that her boss had been refusing to address for a long time. It’s getting resolved.
(c) Salee Reese 2016
Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.