During our 18 months of Covid lockdown, the girls and I fostered eight dogs—each with its own personality and quirks.
- Sirius would hump us.
- Sampson would inhale his food in 1.3 seconds.
- Mishka attacked our cat (ending in a trip to the ER).
- Tiny would dig an escape hole under our fence.
- Yoshi was too scared to walk through any new door.
- Mattie needed constant attention (and surveillance!).
- Hugh was a loveable couch potato.
- And Reid would turn psycho when he didn’t get his way.
My girls are no different—they have their own quirks too (though thankfully we’re past the stage where they turn psycho when they don’t get their way!). Josie wears candy cane socks with her Birkenstocks and enjoys tweezing the hairs on my legs. And Jadyn loves bright yellow shoes and making ridiculous faces for photos.
To a certain extent, these quirks are a beautiful thing. We’re all different. And those differences make relationships interesting and unique.
Yet, those same differences are often what lead to challenges.
- What if your boss wants you to work as late as he does, but you want to read to your kids?
- What if you want to connect with your colleagues in a video meeting, but one team member is resistant to turning on her camera?
- Or what if your employee is the sort of person who works to deadlines, but you’re a manager who prefers to get everything done in advance?
None of these situations are easy! In fact, it’s normal to feel mad or frustrated about things like this from time to time.
A common refrain I hear in coaching is: Why can’t my colleague/boss/employee change? Again, it’s natural to wish for this. If anyone tells you they’ve never secretly hoped someone would have a flash of insight and change, they’re almost certainly lying!
Over 2000 years ago, the Stoic philosophers realized we can’t change other people. “Keep your attention focused entirely on what is truly your own concern and be clear that what belongs to others is their business and none of yours,” said Epictetus, a former slave turned philosopher. In the past few decades, modern Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has proved his insights to be correct.
So what can we do if we can’t change our coworkers? Rather than waste energy being mad at them, we can accept them as they are. Appreciate their quirks. Have the Flexibility to see their humanity, and offer compassion and patience instead of frustration and judgment.
This type of perspective begins with recognizing what choices we have. For instance, if your boss interrupts you in conversations whenever he gets excited about a new idea, you’ll rapidly get frustrated if you choose to take his behavior personally.
You can’t change your boss, so this is an opportunity to try to accept this quirk of his. If you pay close attention to his actions, you might discover he does this with everyone! If his behavior continues to bother you, another option might be to have a conversation with him about it.
So the next time a colleague does something that winds you up the wrong way, try the following core workout:
- Pause: Take a deep breath, leave the room if necessary, and take a quick time-out.
- Think: Recognize your colleague has a different style than you do. You can’t change their personality, so reflect on the choices you do have.
- Act: Stretch to accept your colleague as they are, even if that means you still disagree with them!
And if all else fails, try adopting a foster dog! Your kids will thank you. 🙂