To Plenish or Not to Plenish
Plenish is a late Middle English word meaning to fill up or supply. We’ve all heard of replenishing, meaning to restore to former levels or conditions. It’s more common than the original root word. There are a couple of key areas in life where one needs to fill up and I’m bringing plenish back in the form of a blog to focus on the initial stocking up in the workplace, where many of us spend close to one third or more of our lives.
How do you plenish on the job? What are some ways you stock up, fill up, and source all of the things you need for a better work experience: knowledge, enthusiasm, smooth relations, and inspiration?
We have all experienced when work is depleting. You are in an environment that saps your energy, whether from dealing with difficult colleagues or handling overwhelming workloads. We can stagnate if not given interesting and challenging opportunities to make professional progress. It is important to have access to places to find tips and advice to engage in new ways of thinking. You may seek the thoughts of a colleague or take time on your own to reflect on ideas. The goal of this blog is to be another resource for thoughts, ideas, and best practices on how to plenish oneself for a more engaged and productive work life.
Buttons Pushed, Ready for Takeoff
For our first blog, let’s supply some ideas for a better work experience when you encounter that person who pushes your buttons and seems to set you off.
For example, your colleague on the project just told you that he needs the report by tomorrow instead of three days from now. This is the third time he’s demanded something of you with short notice and you’re having a reaction. How do you know? You feel your pulse pick up. Your whole body tenses. You might grimace or grit your teeth. A dripping verbal riposte that would certainly cause more damage if it comes out is on the tip of your tongue. You freeze and are headed into your fight or flight stance. What do you do?
If you don’t catch yourself and become aware of where the discussion is headed, you might respond in a knee-jerk fashion and escalate a tense situation into a full-blown conflict. It is a biological edict: once the amygdala (the part of your brain in charge of taking care of you in threatening situations) has a grip on you, it is supremely difficult to escape its hold without having a reaction.
Happily, it is possible to observe and recognize these warning signs in yourself, which affords you the space and time to consider many more options for an appropriate and effective response. For the strongest relationships and best outcomes, awareness and choice are what we want in every situation, especially the tense ones.
Some of the choices I have found in my own experiences and when working with and teaching clients at the training firm I run, include:
Take a break and a breath (or ten)
When we prevent ourselves from blurting something out by stopping the conversation, suggesting a break, and taking some deep breaths, we give the auto-response part of our brain time to cool down and give over the reins again to a more executive functioning part that might get us back on a better path.
Discuss process, not substance, for a moment
When I notice that the way we are talking about something starts preventing us from actually talking about it, I make a point of sharing my observation that there seems to be a gap between the desired communication process and what we are doing. It gives a moment to step back from the content and allows a joint decision on how to best have the conversation.
Use curiosity to focus on their perspective
Many of our conversations derail because our brains are so much faster than our mouths and have often filtered the data we took in and jumped to a conclusion that was missing some key piece of information. If we get genuinely curious and ask questions to find out what the other party is thinking or believing, we might uncover something that can help dial back the misunderstanding and escalation. It will be easier to share your perspective when you have shown understanding of theirs.
Add a little levity
When possible and appropriate, if you can say something humorous that won’t add to the conflict, it may help break the tension. I find a little self-deprecation can work well. “Wow—if I really said that to you and meant it, I would think I was a monster too.”
Become a parrot and paraphrase
Misunderstanding happens so quickly with our interpretations of what was said or done. Paraphrasing back the sentiment, summary or gist of what was discussed or done and checking for understanding can be an effective way to slow down the conversation so it doesn’t get out of hand.
These are several methods that have been effective for me in my quest for tense-free discussions with successful outcomes. What other techniques have you used? Share them or any results from trying these.