Our “edge” is that relationally-dysfunctional move we do in times of stress or conflict. It’s the move we do when we’re reactive, rather than mindful. ALL human beings have edges. And most of us have two or three edges that show up time and time again with anyone and everyone. You see, the thing about edges is, they’re all about us. They have zero to do with the other person. We will do what we do with everyone we meet—at work, at home and out in the world. Our edges will show up most with those closest to us, however the truth is we do the same move time and again with anyone who pushes us in some way—when we’re not at our best. We each learned our edges when we were a kid and simply brought that same survival move into adulthood.
The problem with edges, though, is they can wreak havoc in our lives if we don’t work them. Over time, our loved ones will grow tired of us continually doing the same dysfunctional move time and time again. It wears people down. If you want great relationships in and out of work, then you have to learn to recognize your edge and get it under control.
Below are the first two of the five most common edges people have, their impact and how to work them.
1. Defensiveness: Defensiveness can show up as explaining, rationalizing or defending your actions. When a person continually defends, it breaks down the relationship and gets in the way of accountability. If a person refuses to be accountable, then issues rarely get solved, unless the other person constantly gives in. Eventually, people stop trying to talk through issues with someone who struggles with defensiveness; they don’t believe it will make a difference.
The key way to work defensiveness is by using your boundaries. You have to be able to filter messages that come at you and determine which messages are true for you and which ones are not. If there is truth to what someone is saying, then you let that message in, hold yourself in warm regard, be accountable and remind yourself that you’re human. If there’s zero truth to it, then let it go. All humans make mistakes—don’t make it worse by pretending you didn’t make one. Start with acknowledging minor mistakes you make with the easiest people in your life. As you get stronger, move to the bigger issues with the hardest people.
2. Acting passive-aggressive: When people become passive-aggressive, they often withhold: withhold affection, attention, communication, etc. It can show up as not doing something you said you would do, giving someone the cold shoulder or side-swiping them with a mean comment/look/sarcasm.
The way to work this edge is to speak your truth. In order to do that, you have to get conscious of the times you’re angry, disappointed or annoyed with others. If you’re angry, say so respectfully. If you’re upset about something, speak your upset. If you’re annoyed, say so. Notice when you’re “making people pay” in some underground way—through your words, lack of words, actions or lack of actions. Don’t go underground with your anger or upset. Tune in. Speak up. Be direct—not aloof, shut down or biting.
Challenge: Over the next two weeks, see if you can recognize these two edges in others or yourself. Pay attention to the ways in which they show up, what they feel like and how they impact relationships. If you struggle with one of these traits, focus on trying some of the steps discussed.