The co-worker rang me to finish our discussion. I could tell by the way he spoke and the things he said that he had been talking to others. I could tell he agreed with them that I had done something wrong.
That made three people, a unanimous verdict. I accepted the verdict. If three out of three people thought I had done wrong the odds are they are right and I am wrong.
Being right is not one of my priorities. Not if it means not doing my job properly. I accepted the criticism with good grace but I still had a problem. I had a problem with the way I had been handled when I did something wrong.
My co-worker agreed with me that things had not been well handled which helped me regain my balance. I made a decision. I decided to trust my co-worker. I needed support so I gritted my teeth and dropped my mask. I revealed how I was feeling and why.
I received reassurance and support and the focus was not on whether I made a mistake or not but whether I was willing to accept being told I had made a mistake and commit to not repeating the mistake. I said I was willing to do both and I was reassured that is all the company could, or would, require of me.
My co-worker was concerned about me and that made me cry. I tried to explain myself. I said I have been through a trauma and I am not as strong as I usually am. I said the way this was handled pressed buttons and triggered vulnerabilities that I am not as well guarded against as usual. My co-worker said the wheels fall off for all of us now and then and gave me a home number and mobile number to call if I needed to talk about it any more.
After we hung up my mind turned to the problem of how to deal with the other person. I didn’t like the way this whole thing was handled. I tried to work out where it goes from here. Do I pretend nothing has happened? Do I treat the other person with disrespect? Do I punish or refuse to speak except when spoken to?
I could say how I feel about the way this was handled. I could go off in person or in writing. I could tell go off in writing and send a copy to all the brass. Hell, why not take out a full page ad in the local newspaper so the whole country will know how badly this was handled!
Or — I could trust my co-worker again and ask guidance on what to do next!
I dialled the number and we discussed it. I did not mention any of my nasty ideas for handling it so the focus shifted away from what I had done wrong. That was no longer the issue — I had admitted my error and committed to making an extra effort to prevent it from happening again. The focus moved from my mistake to the other person’s mistake.
We decided the best thing to do would be to role-model how I would have liked to have been handled. Set a time that is convenient and just explain that I would prefer to be called aside and told straight out when I have done something wrong.
I can still hear the old self-talk sometimes. The old self-talk focuses on being right, getting revenge, putting people who upset me through some upset of their own.
The new self-talk dismisses such goals without hesitation.
I don’t care about being right — I care about being good at my job! Sometimes that means I have to accept criticism.
I don’t care about getting revenge — I care about being as good a person as I can be! Sometimes that means letting go of negative emotions and trying to find a way to get a pearl out of the pile of crap life hands me.
I’m seeing a pearl in this pile of crap.
If I am able to ask this person to tell me face to face when there is a problem with my performance in a way that won’t cause bad feelings I may actually never have to tolerate another episode like this!
If I do this and do it really well it will show I am able to give constructive criticism as well as accept criticism and cope with awkward situations appropriately and with grace.
I will have proven I am worth considering for a promotion if ever I decide I want to apply for one.
Self-talk that says: “Pay them out for putting you through this!” has nowhere near as much appeal for me any more as self-talk that says: “You could use this to prove to everyone that you are a nice, capable, competent person who doesn’t stoop to petty things like grudges and revenge — a person who is suitable for promotion!”
Sounds good doesn’t it? I wish that was all there was to this but it isn’t.
Sadly, the old self-talk is still there. I have tamed it. It is only able to speak to me in a whisper now but it still speaks. It whispers to me that I am wrong. It says I have made a fatal mistake revealing my vulnerabilities, my paranoia, my panic to anyone. It says nobody could understand because such thinking is proof that I am no good.
It says soon I will be sacked. It says I am worthless and soon, very soon, everyone will know it. It says nobody will listen to me because, no matter how well I say my piece, I am nothing. It says I always have been and always will be nothing.
The difference between me as a 20 year old and me now is I hear the old self-talk but I don’t listen to it any more. I will act as if it is wrong because acting as if it is right never got me anywhere but into more trouble
I met with the other person. We both spoke, we both listened, we sorted it out and there has been no more trouble. Quite the reverse – I am receiving a little extra consideration and being treated a little more gently by all concerned.