When Your Boss is the Villain…

In every drama, there are three characters — the villain, the victim, and the savior. But for any drama to continue, the characters must remain fixed. The villain remains bad; the victim remains the loser, and the savior never saves anyone. Cinematic dramas only end when one of those characters decides to stomp out of the drama and write a new story.

Whenever we find our lives dripping in dramatics and heightened emotions, we must consider: which role are we playing?

As children, many of us learned that, in every story there is a villain and a victim. Someone is either inherently good or inherently bad. Consider popular children’s movies — Cruella de Vil, Ursula, Scar, Maleficent, Jafar, Gaston, etc. Those characters were the “bad guys”, ever-tormenting the lives of the “good guys.” Foiling their attempts at happiness and the simple enjoyment of uncontaminated apples. Those stories don’t allow for the complexity of humanity that the rest of us come to understand as adults.

People are murky, a mix of light and dark, good and bad.

Rarely are we all able to universally agree that one human is good or evil — even the most despised criminal has family members and lovers that speak to their more redeeming qualities. We are humans, not storybook characters. Despite this awareness, many of us make habits out of classifying others around us as villains, consciously or unconsciously. We see others as out to “get us” and committed to making our lives miserable. We use phrases like “they are freezing me out”, “I have been completely written off”, “he hates me”, “she has no interest in developing our relationship.” We invest in these statements and close the book as if that is simply the end of the chapter in some Disney movie. 

What we fail to recognize is that complexity that we know resides within all of us. That positioning disregards any other possibility than how we are currently seeing things. Most importantly: if they are the villains, that makes us the victim. We are at their mercy, at the whim of their cruelty and there is nothing that we can do about it.

Not only does that mentality ignore the true complexity of human relationships, it provides an excuse to stop trying. It offers justification to leave the relationship where it is and not take any action because, after all, you are very busy being a victim to circumstances beyond your control. There is simply nothing you can do. No way to fix it.

You have tried “everything!”

In keeping with the theme of children’s movies, when we allow ourselves to camp out in this world where this is “no solution” and “I just don’t know what to do…nothing will get better” we ignore the best parts of our beloved movies! We love children’s movies because they teach us about TRANSFORMATION! They invariably revolve around a character who refuses to be a victim. Who refuses to roll over and “accept” their reality. We all want the big transformation! We all want to see the main character stretch outside their comfort zone, use their voice, and give their villain the middle finger. We love seeing people rise above adversity and step outside of victim mode! No one wants a story were the “victim” gives up.

We all want to see the “victim” become empowered and seize their life by its sensitive bits!

Why am I going down this rabbit hole? Because in every day, we have opportunities to be that transformative story. So many of us camp out in the victim mentality. We tell ourselves, there are no solutions, I’ve tried everything, nothing will get better…this is just my life…we immerse ourselves in disempowering thoughts sprinkled with a boatload of self-justifications I tried EVERYTHING, I just know it won’t work, I know he won’t be responsive…. Those thoughts are fraught with victimhood! I have yet to find any human on the face of the planet who has tried EVERYTHING at anything. Yet we develop justifications for our inaction. We tell ourselves there is nothing more to be done and we stay put. Often unhappy and miserable (and we’ve concluded that there is no solution, so we’re here to stay and that’s fun too).

No one wants to read that story! Why do we do this to ourselves?

Because it’s easier to be a victim than it is to do the hard work that comes with transformation.

Being a victim is easy. Growth is hard. 

There will be scenarios in our lives that will afford us an opportunity to write our own transformative stories. Life will give us abundant chances to grow and develop. Similarly, life will give us challenging hands and ample opportunities to see ourselves as the victim. There will be times when you give up and that’s okay! But we cannot become skilled at giving up. We cannot become skilled at being the victim. Instead, we must become skilled at transformation! We must practice doing the hard thing. Trying just ONE more way to break through to your boss…To ask for that raise ONE MORE time…To voice your feelings in another kind of way…To try and develop that relationship with your co-workers one last time.

Too often I see women who have dug in their six inch heels. They refuse to see how they have given up to victimhood. They are CONVINCED those around them are the bad guys and there is just no fixing it. While that is certainly one way to live your life, wouldn’t it be so much more fun write your own hero story?

If you find yourself in a space where you are convinced there is no solution available, I would love to work with you and start writing a new story. You are stronger than you think and the possibilities to rewrite your happiness are endless.

To put a bow on this and conclude the title of this rambling: When Your Boss is the Villain…YOU become the victim.

Is that how you want your story to go?

If your life and your “villain” were characters in a children’s story, how would you want it to end?


Photo by murat esibatir from Pexels

Over-Apologizers Anonymous

“Apologizing when we have done something wrong is a real strength, but compulsive apologizing presents as a weakness at work and in personal relationships.” — Dr. Tara Swart, neuroscientist, Medicine Revived

I believe that all relationships should be two-sided. A push and pull, yin and yang, ebb and flow: balanced. When we over apologize, we take ownership for things that are not our own. The relationship becomes one-sided, where one person is always in the right and the other is always in the wrong.

What types of relationships fit into that dynamic?

Victim/villain comes to mind…

However you want to characterize it, over apologizing leaves no room for evolution by either party. The victim hones her skills at subservience, silence, and carrying burdens that are not her own. The villain hones her skills at skirting responsibility, blaming others and excuse-making. Both parties lose the opportunity to hone their voice and self-confidence, to develop the skills that accompany a healthy relationship: trust, partnership, humility, honesty, and respect.

Over apologizing is often the easy route. It’s easier to take on all the blame than it is to stand up for yourself. It’s easier to believe that it was all your fault than to examine the things you did right. This victim mentality is pervasive and can seep into all aspects of your life if left unchecked.

So why do we over apologize?

As I mentioned above, the primary reason we do it is that it’s easier. It is the path of least resistance. We don’t want to do the hard thing and speak our truth. We don’t want to make waves. We are biologically programmed to avoid conflict after all!

Therein lies the second reason that we do this: we don’t want the other person to think poorly of us. We don’t want to be seen as a muckraker, argumentative, or god-forbid a human with feelings. Buried deeper within this rationale is that we are trying to control how the other person thinks of us. We want them to like us. We want them to think we are a team player. We have thick skin. We don’t make trouble.

To be clear: We. Are. Being. Manipulative.

Changing what we think, feel, say, and do because we want something to think about us in a certain way is absolutely manipulation in its noblest form.

So not only are we not being authentic by hiding our truth, we are often showing up in a manner than is inconsistent with our values and character. When considered in this light, over apologizing becomes a bit more distasteful.

Further, when we wrongly apologize, we are taking ownership for something. We are implying that there was something overlooked. Something we could have and should have gotten right the first time. Is that true? Could you have foreseen that the client was going to change their mind? That the contractor was going to cancel last minute after you made your husband come home from work for the appointment? Before you consider uttering the words “I’m sorry,” first get clear on what your role was in the “problem.” If there is no clear failure on your behalf — stop talking.

We mustn’t allow ourselves to take ownership for things that are not our own. Rather, we must strive to share the experiences than should be SHARED between all parties. Recognize the discomfort of the situation for all parties but do not apologize for it, as if you created it. Acknowledge that things didn’t go as well as they could have but don’t pretend that the circumstances were masterminded by you and therefore you must apologize.

Sometimes things go wrong. That is life. Unless you are some secret deity, stop taking ownership for it.

Instead of apologizing, try on these options:

Good catch, I hadn’t considered that angle.

Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

Thanks for starting the meeting when my appointment ran long.

Is now a good time to chat? (Instead of “Sorry to bother you…”)

A few things I am taking away from this experience are….

This must be really frustrating for you too.

I can understand why you might be angry about this.

I would like to add… (Instead of “I’m sorry but…”)

Wow, this is really frustrating.

I appreciate your perspective, but I don’t understand why…

Whoops!

Use I’m sorry only if you have truly done something wrong that falls squarely on your shoulders.

And, most importantly, only use it when you really mean it. “I’m sorry” should be a phrase that, when it comes out of your mouth, others appreciate it and know it is genuine because it is not something you throw around lightly.

Chronic over apologizer? If the above concepts make you uncomfortable, grab a free session and start trimming “I’m sorry” out of your standard vocabulary.


Photo by Laura Seaman on Unsplash

Relationships

Our relationships with the people in our lives are at the root of every challenge in our lives.

Our relationships with others play a significant role in our happiness. How do we improve those relationships and overcome adversity in our relationships?

We simply decide.

When we think about our relationships with others, the “relationship” itself is never really truly defined. What comprises our relationships with others?

I believe that our relationships with others is self-created. Our relationship with other people is something that lives only in our minds. We make decisions about other people. We choose what we want to think about them. From that place we characterize the relationship–good, bad, challenging, irreparable, complete. We make those decisions and “create” the relationship within ourselves. Completely independently of the other person.

Think about it. Have you ever had someone in your life whose understanding of your relationship was completely out of line with your understanding? Think about your former boyfriends or girlfriends. When that relationship ended it is unlikely that you were both in complete agreement about its demise. What is more likely is that one of you thought things were going fine and that nothing needed to change and the other thought the relationship had run its course.

How can it be that two people have such divergent understanding about the same relationship?

Because there is no singular relationships that is shared and agreed upon by both parties.

There are two different relationships as understood by each person. Each person made unique decisions about the relationship’s virtues and drawbacks and interpret the relationship from that perspective.

If that is the case, then it follows that we can simply choose whether or not to have a good relationship with each person in our lives.

We can simply decide whether to believe a relationship has run its course or whether we are in it for the long haul. We simply have to decide.

To be clear, that doesn’t mean that you SHOULD maintain all the relationships in your life or that you should always choose to love the people in your life. You can choose to break up with spouses, friends, and family members if that is your choice. But what I am saying is that there is no inherent “good” or “bad” relationship — we make choices to characterize a relationship one way or the other. We simply have to determine our justification for those choices.

If you want to believe that your boss is a terrible human being who is overly critical, insecure, and passive aggressive, that is your choice. From there you can decide that you don’t want to work at that job anymore or ask for a transfer. But the point is recognizing that you are choosing to think of your boss and your relationship with your boss in that way. It is not inherently true. There is room for dispute and disagreement in your characterization of him.

There is no such thing as just having a “bad boss” as if that were the justification for your poor relationship with your boss.

You are simply choosing to focus your energy on criticisms and judgments of your boss and interpret the relationship through that lens. You could similarly choose to focus on the positive aspects of the relationships or see him through a lens of compassion.

The choice is yours. You can choose to have a good relationship with your boss and operate from that space. That choice will likely require you to see him with more compassion and less judgment than you have in the past. That will require you to stop believing that he is inherently bad and you are a victim.

Take ownership of the relationships in your life and choose how you want to think about them.

Choose what you want to believe about your past relationships and challenging relationships.

Your opinions about others and your relationship with them are not factual. They are your opinions and nothing more. Those opinions will color how you show up in the relationship and the aspects of the relationship you focus on.

If you want to believe that you have a horrible boss and therefore have to leave your job, so be it. But imagine how much you could grow and the skills you could develop if you could learn how to see the relationships differently. If you could choose to believe that you have a good relationship with your boss and act from that place instead?

If you want to have a horrible boss, believing that you do is an assured way to get you that experience. If you want to have a boss that challenges you and helps you become a better employee, the first step is believing that you do and acting from that place instead; interpreting your experience through that lens instead.  Give it a try.

What will it get you if I’m right? What will it cost if I’m not?

Most of the time it is our experiences with other humans that brings most of life’s challenges as well as its high points. Don’t let a “bad” relationship go without first experiencing what it has to teach you about yourself.

If you need some (free) support with a challenging relationship, I would love to visit with you. The work we do with other humans is truly life changing.


Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

Horrible Bosses

Whether you are a practicing attorney or engaged in another profession, horrible bosses are a thing.

Why is it that we have such a hard time working with certain people?

What role do we play in this interpersonal tug-of-war?

I had a free mini-session earlier this week and my client was telling me that her boss often comes into her office unannounced and loudly explains to her what she has done wrong. He leaves her door open during these sessions so that her secretary, the associate next door, and anyone walking the hall can listen as he surmises her short-comings. These exchanges always left her mortified and angry and she wanted his behavior to stop.

Our challenges with other humans are usually founded upon some faulty beliefs:

There are basic principles and standards of how people should treat each other.

People don’t often act like they are supposed to.

Both of these lines of thinking are problematic. Both of these notions will cause you pain and suffering in your personal relationships.

How are people “supposed” to act?

Exactly as they do.

That is the nature of free will. That is every human’s right. When we tell ourselves people are supposed to act differently than they do, we are fighting against reality.

When you resist reality and argue that people should be different, you will lose (but only 100% of the time!).

There is no upside in thinking that others should act any differently than they do. Let it go. The way they act is exactly how they are supposed to act. Whatever they are saying and doing is not within your purview to judge or control. Just let it be.

The only thing you can control is how you decide to show up and respond to it.

For every relationship, many of us carry unspoken “manuals” about how the other person should act. The manual for our bosses states that they should be professional and collected. Sensitive to your needs and willing to guide your development and growth. They are not supposed to berate you or embarrass you.

They are not supposed to be horrible.

We believe that if they would just act how we want them to act, we would be happier and feel better about ourselves. That is a complete lost cause. That means that the only way we can feel more confident and secure with our practice is if the other person changes.

What are the odds of that working for you?!

We can’t control others. We’ve all tried at one time or other and discovered the impossibility of that task. So if we can’t control other humans and if other people dictate how we feel, we are all screwed.

We get to control how we receive the actions and words of our bosses. We get to decide what their actions mean about ourselves as attorneys and professionals.

When you spend all your energy ranting about how the other person “should” act and all the things they are doing wrong, you don’t give yourself the opportunity to decide how you want to show up in the that moment or what you want to think about their actions.

You are too busy being a victim of their actions.

Take your power back. Make CONSCIOUS decisions about what you want to think about that person and their actions. Be aware of how you interpret those actions to mean something negative about yourself.

There will always be “difficult people” in our lives but these people are not difficult because of how they “make us feel.”

They are difficult because they challenge us to examine our thoughts about ourselves and our judgments of others. That, my friends, is the real work of this life.

They are difficult because they challenge us to evolve.

Stop trying to change people and instead focus on evolving yourself. That, after all, is the only thing you can control (but only 100% of the time).

Practicing law is HARD. You will have more people who will challenge you than people who will build you up. Start learning how to deal today.

Stop letting them have the power over your happiness. Life is too damn short.


Photo by Atul Choudhary from Pexels