Colleen 9/26/14 Polarized


26 September 2014

Dear Colleen,

For this inaugural letter you might as well cut to the chase. What theme has governed your life this past month? Cutting out stress, even at the cost of leaving professional groups you love, even if it means having to let others down. What factor has driven the escalation of that stress? Your balls-to-the-wall attitude.

Face it, darling: You have what is called a polarizing personality. People either love you or hate you; there’s no in between. This behavior didn’t develop yesterday or even a year ago. You’ve always been this way, and while most of the time you chug along maintaining you don’t really care, now and then things backfire and bite you right in the butt. Why? Because destiny has also seen fit to endow you with the need to make everyone love you.

You can’t have it both ways.

Either change five decades of habit and hard-wiring and become a cool-headed charmer who’s universally admired, or stick to your guns and suck up the speed bumps.

Ah. So easy to say. You’re cool much of the time. You show patience and politesse, empathy and grace. The trouble arises when you butt heads with those who grate with your style or question your authority. Then it all goes so wrong and you end up feeling wounded. If only they had done this or that, like you said. Well, guess what? That’s not happening. Worse, these sorts of people tend not to retreat. Your choices at this point are to keep engaging or change tack . . . euphemisms for fighting them or backing away. You hate both these options, especially the latter.

So Plan A, running roughshod through life, works 90% of the time. Okay, 80%. That leaves you with Plan B, the diplomatic approach. It sounds good on paper. At every encounter, you step back for a moment and analyze the person with whom you’re about to engage. Watch the room for a while. Don’t speak first. Wait for others to reveal their character and skill. Wade in only when you have something positive to contribute. When you identify a problem person, decline to engage; if they go after you, refuse to play their game. All well and good, but the problem with Plan B is you can’t stick to this path and also defend others from bullies. You cannot remain silent when a powerful someone wreaks havoc with a working dynamic. You can’t just swallow your pride when you’re ignored, demeaned, or marginalized.

These values are supremely important to you. For better or worse, you were born to be the defender and fixer of wrongs. To remain silent in the name of minding your own business, in an effort to decrease your overall stress, you would have to compromise your deep-seated perception of justice. In short, a life on the sidelines would agitate you worse than you currently are.

What’s left then? Mindfulness, I suppose. Pay better attention when problems arise. Choose the battles worth fighting and seek opportunities to exit. It’s not always a concession to walk away from a fight. You know how to be diplomatic; just do it more often.

Mindfulness: both self-awareness and the awareness of the forces that swirl all around you. Pay attention, Colleen. Don’t dwell in your bubble, only to burst forth like an avenger when someone steps on your toes. Trim away generators of negative forces. You don’t always have to smash them.

In short, don’t stop being you, just try not to be always so . . . you.



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1 Response to Colleen 9/26/14 Polarized

  1. Pingback: Colleen 12/5/2014 – The Arrogance of Fixers | One Year of Letters

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