In our world today, very few people have mastered the art of standing up for themselves. After working with hundreds, if not thousands, of people over the years, I’ve found that people typically land in one of three groupings when it comes to having difficult conversations or handling difficult situations:
1. The “take no sh*t” group. This is the group of people who will quickly react in anger to hurtful behavior or issues of disagreement. If someone speaks to them disrespectfully, this group often will quickly shut that person down, fight back, get defensive, yell, scream or intensely storm out.
2. The “create no waves” group. This group tries to do whatever is necessary to keep things calm. They can duck, walk on eggshells, placate, make empty promises, silence or try to appease others.
3. The “teapot” group. This group slowly simmers by silencing, placating and letting things go for a period of time, only to later escalate and blow up.
As you can imagine, none of these approaches is effective. Too many people work in the extremes—either silencing and placating or snapping and bullying. As a result, people either overshoot or undershoot in their responses to upset. Too few people actually step in with a Grounded Powerful Strength (GPS).
A Grounded Powerful Strength is calm, strong AND relational. The bottom-line rule in a GPS is DO NO HARM. Regardless of how angry you are or someone else is, neither you nor the other person has the right to be verbally, emotionally or physically abusive. Yelling, screaming and calling names are abusive—to others. Allowing others to yell, scream and treat you poorly is abusive—to you.
Stepping in with a GPS requires that we keep our voices low and steady, our words clear and respectful and our demeanor calm. There is no reason for anyone to belittle, shame, mock, intimidate or threaten another person…and anytime we are doing any of these behaviors, we are off. It is equally not okay to silence ourselves in the wake of someone else’s abuse or mistreatment. Standing up effectively requires that we protect ourselves from the toxicity of others while simultaneously protecting others from our own toxicity. A Grounded Powerful Strength is about standing up without stepping on anyone—or allowing anyone to step on you.
There are very few role models, in our world, of people who use a GPS. We get slammed with so many messages about how to handle anger that it’s no wonder people don’t know how to be effective. We hear:
• “Don’t take that from him!”
• “Be nice”.
• “Don’t be a b*tch”.
• “Be assertive!” (Which often means be aggressive.)
Both men and women have been taught crazy things when it comes to handling upset. No wonder people land in the extremes in regard to conflict. Unfortunately though, the extremes are not helping us. The extremes keep us immoderate and destroy our message. We don’t need to rage or bully in order to be heard. We also don’t need to duck, placate or silence in order to avoid a fight. Instead, we are the most effective when we step in, say it straight, act respectful and are clear about what we want and/or what we are going to do. A Grounded Powerful Strength is our map to health in our relationships. The more grounded and respectful we are in even the most difficult of times, the more powerful and strong our message is.
Stop watering down your message by hanging out in the extremes. Come back to earth. Get grounded, stay respectful and take action.
Challenge: For the next week, watch how the world handles anger, conflict and upset. Notice how people hang out in the extremes and if you see someone stepping in with a GPS, holding their own with a calm certainty—notice what it’s like to see that kind of strength. Finally, watch yourself and avoid responding in the extremes.