By Dr. Daneen Skube
From Tribune Content Agency
Question: I’ve always been stubborn. My boss told me she doesn’t want to promote me because of my stubbornness. How can I change when it’s just the way I am? Isn’t tenacity when I’m right a good thing? How can I show my boss that she should promote me?
Answer: You can show your boss that she should promote you by realizing your interpersonal habit is a habit, which is changeable. You can also realize that tenacity, when used in the service of being right, is self-destructiveness.
Notice how you start your question, stating that you’ve always been stubborn, as if you are stating your hair color. While it’s true there’s some biology to character traits, most interpersonal habits are learned. The good news is that if we can learn a trait—one that keeps us from earning promotions—then we can unlearn that same trait.
When you talk, pay close attention to how you define your identity. Most of us will say we’re jealous, picky, or critical like we’re describing our shoe size. These habits are choices that we’ve made so often, they’re nearly automatic. The more we identify with these traits, the less we can see our habits as a prison we’ve built for ourselves.
Take a sheet of paper and on the left side write down the interpersonal habits that form your identity—”stubborn,” for example. Now on the right side, write down the opposite habit—i.e. “flexible.” As you contemplate the right side, notice how many options you’re losing if you have a rigid identity.
In my work and life, I see how often we get into trouble because of rigid self-definitions.
A peaceful and effective work life requires flexibility in how we solve problems. If we think of ourselves as a hammer, we’ll perceive all problems as nails. Read the list of habits you wrote on the right side of your paper and consider developing an identity that includes these capacities.
The truth is there’s nothing in the spectrum of human habits that each of us does not possess. If you realize you can be brilliant and stupid within the span of five minutes, your need to defend yourself will decrease. You’ll also find freedom in being able to admit ignorance and receive more help and wisdom from others.
Furthermore, the most ineffective place to be stubborn is our insistence we’re right. If we are right, then other people need to be wrong, and people made or shown to be wrong become enemies.
We ought never to be more humble than when we’re right. Humility generates receptivity in others. A stubborn need to be right alienates listeners.
Lao Zhu, the Chinese philosopher, observed, “When I let go of what I am. I become what I might be.” Use a key to your self-imposed prison of identity by discovering all the additional habits that will help your career and life thrive!
Question: Is there any one trait you personally cultivate that helps you have the personal growth mindset you often recommend?
Answer: Yes, humility in the face of my vast ignorance about so much! I agree with Socrates, the Greek philosopher, who confessed, “I know that I am intelligent because I know that I know nothing.”
(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel’s “Workplace Guru” each Monday morning. She’s the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)
©2022 Interpersonal Edge. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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