Speak or Stew? Learn to Speak Your Truth
Do you speak up when you feel wronged? Or do you stew until you boil over? Learning to speak up can save you lots of pain and distress.
At the beginning of February, I started working in a new environment with people I had never met before. We’ve all been there, right? There’s a time period where we have to get used to the new folks and ways of operating, as well as the new politics of the place. Adjusting takes time and can uncover those uncomfortable patterns that invariably pop up in any situation with new people. I found myself making this transition for the first time since I learned to speak up for myself, and I was surprisingly hesitant to continue implementing my new skills. Yet, I had to try, or I knew I would slip into dysfunctionally stuffing my feelings.
The first real challenge came just a few days ago. My training period is over, and as a rule follower, I very strictly adhere to how I was trained to do things. Of course, we all make mistakes, and while I do recognize this, I am not comfortable being held in the wrong when someone else’s mistake causes me to not do my job as well as I could. That’s what happened in this situation.
I had to look for a file on the computer, and the person who had filed it had not followed procedure. I don’t think it was intentional, but it still made it harder for me to do what I needed to do. The missing file caused a bit of a situation. My supervisor was sitting next to me, and I could tell by the look on her face and the sound of her voice that she was frustrated. However, I mistook her frustration for being aimed at me.
I started to stew a bit because, after all, the mistake hadn’t been mine. I don’t blame the person who made the mistake, but I didn’t appreciate being held accountable for it. The pit of my stomach knotted instantly and my behavior became hostile. I had a few choices: do it the old way and say nothing which would lead to either (a) me remaining resentful and/or (b) that resentment growing until I eventually lost my temper in an unproductive way; or I could calmly say something about how I felt it was unfair to hold me accountable for someone else’s mistake, even if it was just with a look and a sigh.
So, I took a deep breath, and as calmly as I could (which still had some bite to it), I told my supervisor that I didn’t appreciate that she was upset with me for a mistake that wasn’t mine.
Turns out that her sigh and look weren’t aimed at me, but were aimed at the person who had made the mistake, and the fact that a minor situation with a client had been created by this error. Her frustration had nothing to do with me. And, to her credit, she remained calm as she explained this to me. There were a few minutes of tension as we both shook off the incident, but after that, all went back to being fine.
Now, if I hadn’t said something, I would have continued to stew thinking that I was being blamed for something that wasn’t my fault. I had misinterpreted her response, so my negative feelings were causing me pain and were completely unfounded. In addition, not saying anything would have left me feeling powerless and frustrated, even if she had been upset with me. Speaking up when I felt distressed helped to shorten the whole incident to minutes instead of an ongoing agony.
When was the last time you felt jilted at work, by a friend, or out in public? And when was the last time you said nothing, but chose instead to stew on the perceived insult? How much longer did that make the incident last instead of just finding out the truth or speaking your peace? Many of us tend to do it, and it doesn’t benefit us. Even if we wind up being wrong, as I was, in our interpretation of the facts, that is even more of a reason to voice our concerns. We tend to make mountains out of mole hills and carry distress into the future when it would be minuscule in comparison if we spoke our truth.
I’m still working on using my voice in a healthy way. I still have one co-worker that tends to tell everyone what to do, especially me since I’m new, but doesn’t always follow the correct steps herself. It bugs me when she corrects me, and I haven’t figured out how to say something. But, I will. Because the alternative is to continue being frustrated and pained which is not in my new vocabulary and way of life.
So, when something comes up this week that you know is not right, are you going to speak up or stew? Try speaking up and let me know how it goes.