A couple of days ago, I had a client drop by my office unexpectedly. She asked if she could speak to me for a moment about a situation that involved her part-time job. Not having any clients on the schedule at the time, I welcomed her in.
Leaning back in my swivel office chair, I asked, “So, tell me, what would you like to discuss?” She began by telling me that something took place in her department while the manager was not present; he had gone on a matter to another facility.
There was a project that needed attending to, and was due in a couple of hours. She asked for the assistance of another employee. The employee she asked, as well as another employee, worked to complete the project. My client had already laid out the materials for the project, but the employees used resources where they are normally stored instead. As she was attempting to point out where she placed the needed resources, my client told me the three (there was another employee working on another task nearby) employees were not saying anything to her; they went about the task of completing the project.
I asked her, “So, were you bothered by the fact that the materials you had already set aside were not used?” This was my initial attempt at helping my client define for herself what the problem was. “No,” she replied, “that wasn’t a big deal.” I said, “Well, that’s good to hear. That would have been an easy fix, I would think. Just a matter of putting away the supplies you left out, right?” She agreed.
“So, then, let’s drill this down. If the completion of the project and the use of the materials were not the problem, then what was?” She responded that the fact she was addressing people and they were not responding to her was the problem.
I asked her, “How do we fix this problem?” She looked at me silently for a moment. She knew what I was implying with the question. She works in this workplace one day a week. Based on past conversations, she has had a few altercations with the fellow employees; two of them were the employees who completed the project. From my perspective, it appears she has alienated the employees in the department. People don’t know what to say to her because she has reacted by getting angry, or to start crying on the spot (She does not consciously see this; it seems to escape her.). The altercations have always been centered on the way someone has addressed her, and that she didn’t like it.
I asked if she had considered why these employees were not acknowledging her. I asked her to, for a moment, put herself in their shoes. I could see this making her uncomfortable, but I persisted. I said, “Now, these women aren’t here for me to ask, but, could it be that they don’t say anything to you based on how you have reacted to things in the past? Perhaps, and I’m not condoning their behavior, or saying that it’s right, they feel that instead of possibly saying the wrong thing to you that it’s just best not to say anything to you?” Instead of answering this directly, she threw in, “Well, I’ve never had a situation involving the third employee, and she didn’t say anything to me either.” Without missing a beat, I asked, “Has this person ever witnessed any of your other situations with employees?” She responded that she had. “Well,” I started, “she’s not here to ask, but it might be safe to say that, based on what she’s seen, she doesn’t want to be yet another person you have words with. What do you think about that?” Silence.
Shifting gears a bit, I then suggested something else. “Do you want the situation to change?” I asked. “If you do, you might want to consider what you could do differently.” Her eyes widened, as if to question why I would say such a thing. And then, she started to cry. At this point, I had her sit down. I realized that this was part of her challenge. She always wants to point the finger, to place the onus of change on to the other person in the situation without looking at herself. “When we deal with other people, we sometimes have to be the change we expect to see in the other person,” I explained. “Relationships, no matter the level, are a two-way street, and sometimes we have to give something to get something. If you want them to acknowledge you, what can you do differently?”
“I could not get upset or emotional,” she said, almost reluctantly. “You could,” I said. “You could also leave things as they are, and continue to not be acknowledged by these fellow employees. But even with that, you would have to react differently, because you are saying that it’s okay for them to do that to you, but that you are not going to let it bother you. You decide what you want, but you are going to have make a change, one way or the other.”
Do you want to guess what she said next? “I guess I’ll leave it alone. It’s not that big a deal.” I didn’t show it on my face, but I admit I was disappointed with this response, because it spoke volumes about this woman. She would rather minimize the effect a situation is having on her than to accept responsibility for her part in it and be the agent of the change she wants to experience.
I was curious, so I asked, “What did your manager have to say about all of this?” She said that he said something of a similar nature. She said he told her he would speak to the other employees, but it wasn’t going to be a session where she gets what she wants without making some concessions of her own. She said he even said that “it wasn’t a one-way street, but a two-way street.” I think I like this guy.
In the end, she left feeling like she made the best choice for herself. But I couldn’t help but to wonder if she really had. My thought is that she wanted to remain the victim in the situation, something I am all too familiar with. I used to be one of those people. There’s a payoff in being the victim, which is why so many people play the part. In my case, it was so people could feel sorry for me, so I could feel justified in my victimhood. There’s a price to be paid for it, though, that most victims don’t realize they are paying; they never get to know what it’s like to be empowered and have a powerful life. That only comes with taking responsibility for one’s part, and choosing to take on a different role: that of a victor.
And a big part of that is becoming the catalyst for the change you want to experience. I’m thanking this woman for bringing this situation to me, as it gave me pause. I have a belief that, as an intuitive psychologist-consultant, I attract the clients that I need, as they will help me examine some area of my life, and that the advice I give to them may also be for me. In this case, I realized that, as I go about making some much-needed changes in my own life, I need to remember that change first begins with me, that I am the catalyst for the changes I want to experience.
If you have taken the time to read this post, and gotten to this point, I want to leave you with the same thought: You are the catalyst for the changes you wish to experience in your life. Change begins with you.
Love and light,