Hi everyone,

As much as we’re very much more emotionally aware than we were, say 30 years ago I’m not sure that the theory and the practical application of it are matching each other. Just one journey on the motorway will demonstrate that beautifully – and not in a good way 🙁 “I don’t think it says you should do that in the Highway Code if you don’t mind!!” 😉 We know that we should listen and be considerate of one another but when we’re under pressure that can very quickly get thrown out of the window. Understanding our very primitive stress response system or what Steve Peters calls our chimp can help us understand how we should behave but do we, when we’re faced with someone saying the complete opposite of what we want to hear or someone driving really inconsiderately, because they’re late, which is not my problem?! Are you detecting a pet peeve of mine?! 😉

Having someone ask if they can leave early when you’ve just explained that it’s ‘all hands to the pump’ to get a specific piece of work done today is frustrating and typically we’re less used to being told ‘no’ these days so the response won’t go down well and you could end up with a grumpy and disengaged member of staff who does little to contribute to the important piece of work anyway. Frustrating. We should all be mindful of each other, kind and considerate, taking time out to talk to each other and share experiences but is that your experience of the workplace and am I being totally delusional in thinking that’s a possibility?! :-/ Are we behaving in the way we’ve been guided and taught to?

I talk to people a lot about their experiences and often hear about situations and workplaces where people are being ignored, intimidated into non-action and bullied. Not good. I imagine the perpetrators of that negativity have probably been on lots of courses which have told them how they should behave to support people and at those courses, they nodded and engaged, and probably talked about their own experiences of not being listened to or intimidated into taking a course of action that wasn’t their preference. They return from that course and for the first few days and weeks they do adjust their behaviour. They take the time to talk to their teams, adopt a collaborative approach and consider solutions offered by others. Sounds fabulous doesn’t it? I’m skipping through daisies just thinking about it! But then the darkness of work pressure returns and we start to see the pre-course behaviours return, like a pantomime villain – booooo!!! 🙁

I’m thinking about the evidence of hero leadership more and more, where leaders think they must do everything themselves as the lesser mortals that work for them are not capable of doing the things they are employed for and paid to do. Which makes the person that employed them a bit of a muppet then doesn’t it?! If leaders don’t rate the people that work for them it’s very easy for everyone to get into negative behaviours very quickly. I, at times have found myself thinking things and having conversations in my head that sounded how a stroppy teenager might sound, when I’ve had difficult experiences at work. And even when I did try to moderate my responses and remind myself that I was an adult actually, there were less than helpful thoughts of things like “well she started it!”. Oh dear.

We know the theory of how we should treat each other but is it OK to say all bets are off if you’re late, for instance to pick up your child from school? It’s not the other driver’s fault you’re late and it may not be yours either but are you going to inflict that on someone else who’s just trying to pick up their child as well? Is your journey more important than theirs? Taking personal responsibility and encouraging others to do the same is all we can do sometimes but when you get carved up several times on a short journey from a motorway junction to park up at a shopping centre, as I did recently it doesn’t make us ooze with the milk of human kindness does it? We seem to feel so entitled these days that if someone has to suffer in order for us to achieve, so be it. That’s not a great approach to life but I do think we can see that on the roads every single day. Our car can make us feel protected, a bit like the internet when people post negative, critical and offensive content but can remain anonymous. Why would anyone do that?!

All we can do is hold ourselves and those in our ‘sphere of influence’ to account. “Did we treat people right today?” That can feel very hard when you feel like you’re giving more than you’re getting back but treating people well supports your own self esteem and makes you a great role model to others. And if you feel that pantomime villain lurking in your head, maybe it’s time to think about your stress level and how you can find time to breathe and reach the school, for instance, in a calmer mood than the doolally angry person who’s just fought their way through the traffic and given everyone a bad day, including themselves!

We know how we should behave but stress can change our personality, make us act irrationally and not as we would hope to do. Some of the greatest examples of someone ‘chimping’ are road rage situations where the red mist has descended, no one’s listening to what the other person is saying or is interested in being reasonable. Those situations can go from zero to very serious in seconds, when half an hour before that the people involved were probably feeling quite reasonable, but when we feel ‘wronged’ our stress response kicks in and then it’s a challenge to manage our subsequent behaviour. If only we could all stop charging about the place, sigh.

Try to make your car and the other situations in your life a bit more mindful, to see if you can live and breathe some ‘shoulds’. I know, I usually say ‘should’ is a stupid word but sometimes we really should behave in a more moderate manner and think about the effect of our behaviour on other people. Would you want a family member or friend to come home feeling upset, frustrated or angry because they were metaphorically ‘pushed around’ on their drive home or treated badly on public transport? Maybe think about that if you start to get frustrated and feel bad tempered. It is hard to change our behaviours, especially in stressful situations but being mindful and holding ourselves to account are definitely the first steps.

OK, deep breath….I’m venturing out onto an A road! Will my sensitive soul return in one piece I wonder? Fingers crossed please everyone! 😉

Drive safely and calmly please, take good care and have a great day.

Best wishes, Karen

Email: kw.innerstrength@outlook.com