There’s one thing that is always going to come with work life, and that’s having to interact with people who will try to take your peace. Conversations with these people may feel exhausting. Knowing you have to speak to them and work with them may fill you with dread. Even a text or email from them can feel like an attack – they aren’t in the room with you, but somehow, they still manage to affect you. Your mind is the battlefield and they’ve got missiles. They take up your time, physically, mentally, and spiritually. How do you protect yourself from this?
Have you ever found yourself in the shower, defending yourself in an argument that hasn’t taken place yet? Or cooking dinner, but in your head, you’re going over a situation that happened yesterday? Have you ever reacted to someone in a way that haunted you later, because you know it was out of anger? That’s your peace being taken away from you, and it used to happen to me all the time. Whether it was a direct report with an attitude, a manager with a conflicting agenda, or a customer seeking justification, I was giving my peace out in spades.
The first thing I had to do was understand that the way to keep my peace has nothing to do with the people who are stealing it.
This can be hard to come to grips with. You are probably justifying how difficult it is in your head right now, running through why they’re so difficult to work with. You probably have specific examples of times they were too stubborn, or manipulative. I know how difficult it can be, but the reality is, you are giving them the power they need in order to affect you in the way that they do, which means you are giving them more power than they actually have. It’s like a deflated balloon – it exists – but it only gets bigger if you put air into it. Recognise that every thought, word, or action that is directed towards this person is giving them air to become bigger in your life. It’s YOUR breath that’s giving them life, not theirs.
It’s also time to confront the fact that you can’t predict the future. You can’t predict what this person will say, do, or feel tomorrow. As obvious as that may sound, it’s funny how often we still get caught up doing exactly that. Let’s say you find out a piece of information that may affect this person, so now you spend the rest of the day constructing situations in your head about what this person will say, how this person will react to this news, what might happen based on this reaction, etc. How much time have you now spent worrying about something that A. doesn’t exist (this situation you have imagined only lives in your head) and B. you can’t do anything about anyways (we can’t control other people’s reactions). By assuming you can, you’re giving more of your energy, more of your peace, into the balloon and allowing it to get bigger.
Keep your yard clean.
For analogy purposes, your yard (or garden for my english folks) is made up of your words and actions. Feelings stemming from resentment and fear are likely to rise often with this person, but if you act on them, it will only come back to haunt you later. When you need to speak to this person, check that what you’re saying is in line with the following: is it kind, is it necessary and is it true? Anything that is not in line with these fundamentals would be the product of your ego getting in the way. Our ego tends to create situations for us that seem satisfying in the now, but will hurt our character in the long run.
“If someone treats you rudely, and you respond with rudeness, you have not done anything but prove to them that they are justified in their actions. Instead, today, let’s seek to be better than the things that disappoint or hurt us. Let’s try to be the example we’d like others to follow.”Ryan Holiday, The Daily Stoic
This idea will cause us to pause before we react. It’s not always easy, but it always pays off. Living with conscious intention means you’re aware of what you’re doing when you’re doing it, and you’re doing it on purpose. If you’ve ever found yourself firing off an email with a tone you regretted later, or word vomiting because you felt overwhelmed, you would benefit from learning to pause and then checking if what you have to say is kind, necessary, and true (KNT). When we are living in regret of something that we said or did, that’s more energy, more breath, more peace we’re giving away.
Let go of your expectations. They are the root of all your heartaches.
You may argue that there needs to be a base level of expectation in the working world, and I would agree with you, but what I believe is vital is where these expectations are rooted. For example, you may have a very reasonable expectation that your team needs to be on time, and let’s say that doesn’t happen one day. If this expectation is rooted deep in yourself, it’s likely to really hurt when it’s not lived up to. You will feel frustrated, disappointed, angry, because you’re holding the expectation so close to your heart. However, if you hold this expectation a bit further away from you, detached from you, you won’t be affected when it bursts, and the thing is – it will burst. When it does, what you can control is how you respond to it in a way that addresses the problem, if that’s what you need to do (but also ensuring that you’re keeping your yard clean, and speaking with KNT).
There’s also the need to let go. Let go of the need to change people. You won’t. Let go of the need to control. You can’t. Let go of this idea that your life should be a certain way and everyone around you should just play their parts, what you’re doing is setting them and yourself up to fail, because they will let you down.
Some practical tips to help you stop giving your peace away today:
- Use an affirmation every time you find yourself projecting:
“I hold onto my peace by staying present in this moment.”
“I cannot and will not try to predict the future. Everything will happen exactly how it should.”
“In this moment, I am (insert the task that you’re currently doing), and my peace belongs to me.”
- Recognise the people that are the opposite of peace stealers – the people who love you and big you up. Make time to connect with these people every day.
- Try to pause and count to three today before each interaction and think about what you’re going to say (remember – KNT). Do this especially with people who you struggle to keep your peace around. At the end of the day, note down what went well, and what didn’t go so well.
Understand that this is not something that will be easy to do all of the time. It takes practice. It takes time. It takes honesty, awareness, and goodwill. When you allow someone to affect you, it’s because you may be gripping too tightly on the idea that you can control them. Let go, and your peace will come back to you.