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Don’t Be That Person!

As teachers begin preparing for another school year, I thought I’d share a breakthrough a client of mine had last year.

They came to me to help address what they felt were negative relationships they had built with their coworkers.  The main issue was that they could not for the life of them figure out why people seemed to view them in a negative light.

They thought they were the ideal coworker.

After doing some exercises and activities, my client had an epiphany….They were deep in thought and suddenly looked right at me and said “I’m that person.”

What transpired after that was a great conversation that not only detailed how they felt they were being “that person” but ways they could make some changes.

Here are three things they felt attributed to the negative perceptions coworkers had about them and how they went about addressing them.

It also helped my client, that we came up with some humorous names for the “people” they felt they were being at times…

Debbie Downer

My client thought they were doing the staff a favor every time they’d address a concern in a faculty meeting.  “If I’m concerned, there has to be others that feel the same way” they thought.

Come to find out they were wrong.  After some self-reflection, they realized they were doing a lot more complaining than advocating for  themselves and their coworkers.

Worst of all, they rarely provided any solutions to what they were complaining about.

After talking through some things they’ve brought up at faculty meetings and the manner in which they presented their concerns, my client said they could see how others could view them as a Debbie Downer.

So how did they change???

First, my client decided to not bring anything up during a meeting in which they didn’t have a solution or at least a suggestion.  This basically breaks down to asking questions beginning with “what if” instead of “why.”

Next, if they felt there was an issue of concern that needed to be addressed, they would first talk to other staff members about their feelings.  If they felt administration should be notified, they would set up a time to talk to them privately.  This really addressed an area that was important to my client…advocating for other teachers.

My client put it perfectly…”I need to think before I speak.”

Blue Duck

In the movie Billy Madison, Adam Sandler said “he drew the duck blue because he’s never seen a blue duck before and to be honest with you, I wanted to see a blue duck.”

What in the world are you talking about???

Glad you asked…My client thought they were being extremely helpful when it came to offering advice to other staff members.  Their train of thought, “I’ve been doing this for years, why let others get frustrated by making mistakes if I can stop them.”

One big problem…a lot of times their advice was unsolicited.

This came off as more intrusive and judgmental to others, the opposite of helpful.

Sometimes people need to fail in order to truly learn…Sometimes they want to draw a blue duck and not be told ducks aren’t blue.

So how did they change???

First, unless my client felt there was some sort of safety concern, they wouldn’t intervene.

They shared a story of how they knew a beginning teachers lesson was going to be a disaster.  Still, they let them fail and learn how to adjust on the fly.  Afterwards they had a great discussion about what did/didn’t work and the beginning teacher actually asked for some advice.

The second thing they did was something they found the most beneficial…asking others for advice.

“I think others don’t offer me advice because they know I’ve been teaching for so long.”

Asking others for advice changed their persona, they were on an equal playing field.  This simple thing changed the way many coworkers viewed my client.

Only Child

The world revolves around an only child…I know because I am one.  Okay, I know this isn’t entirely true but it has some validity.

My client is a good teacher and person, they genuinely care about their school and all those associated with its community.

That being said, they had a hard time realizing that the things they found to be important, the events the we’re placed in-charge of, weren’t at the top of other people’s priority list.

I’ve been there before.

I’ve been so wrapped up in planning a school-wide event that I became frustrated when not getting responses in what I felt was a timely manner or upset when others nwere’t showing the same level of enthusiasm.

My client would have similar feelings and when addressing their frustration and disappointment, they would email blast the staff, complain to the administration, and even take to social media to voice their displeasure.

It’s important to understand that people have their own things to worry about, personally and professionally.  Also, people don’t have to show the same emotions as you to be supportive…just because they don’t seem excited doesn’t mean they aren’t excited.

So how did they change???

First off, NO SOCIAL MEDIA!!!  As the Lost Boys in one of my favorite movies Hook would say…”bad form.”

Secondly, my client made a conscious effort to “put themselves in other people’s shoes.”  This became an emotional conversation at one point because they realized how demanding and rude they had been to someone they knew was going through some personal issues… “I was constantly bombarding this person, not even thinking about what they were going through at home.”

Finally, no more email blasts.  They realized that a barrage of long and often hostile emails never resulted in any positive change.

As my client said “I just need to chill out and take a step back sometimes.”

This all breaks down to a few simple principles…

  • Think before you speak
  • Know when to bite your tongue
  • Be cognizant of how you interact/approach others

This post in no way is trying to detour people from voicing their concerns or trying to invoke change…It’s a reminder that teachers work in a stressful environment and we need to try our best to support one another.

It’s all in the presentation!

Now it’s your turn to take some time for self-reflection…are you “that person?”