By Matthew Welsh, Founder of Spiritual Media Blog
Imagine you are at work sitting at your desk and your boss walks by and says:
“I need to see you in my office right now!”
Take a moment right now to stop reading and ask yourself what are the first thoughts that go through your mind? If you have some time write your thoughts down.
This actually happened to me at work one day. My boss told me he needed to see me in his office right now. The first thoughts that went through my mind and often go through other people’s mind when I ask them are…
“What did I do wrong.”
“I hope I am not in trouble.”
“Oh, shit. What does my boss want from me?”
As a result these thoughts are often associated with feelings of anxiety, worry, frustration, stress and sometimes anger.
For some people the combination of these thoughts and feelings produce such an uncomfortable state of mind and sensations in their body that their conversation with their boss is severely inhibited. They may be less likely to pay attention and be present to what their boss really is saying. Or, at worst, these thoughts and feeling may trigger and emotional reaction or saying something to their boss that they regret saying. At the very least, these thoughts may produce feelings of internal stress that make it harder to enjoy the conversation.
Fortunately, since our thinking is influencing our feelings, what we say, and how we handle our conversation, then we can actually change our thinking to change the way we feel and how we respond in the conversation. Changing our thinking, in this case, not only changes the way we feel or experience the conversation, but it may literally change what we say to our boss, our relationship with our boss, and thus the security of our job.
More helpful thoughts in this situation or any difficult conversation include:
1. Maybe there is another reason or explanation for why this person is saying or doing this that I am not aware of.
This can be really hard to think this thought, especially for people who are highly empathic, intuitive, sensitive, or aware of their emotions. Often times we experience an emotion such as anxiety or nervousness and assume that their must be a logical, rational or real reason based in reality that we are experiencing that emotion.
However, just because we are experiencing a negative emotion such as anxiety, does not mean their is actually a reason based in reality for us to experience this emotion of anxiety.
Therefore, if we can be aware of our negative emotions and possible unhelpful thoughts associated with that emotion, then we can challenge that emotion and thinking with more helpful thoughts such as:
“Maybe there is another reason or explanation for why this person is saying or doing this that I am not aware of.”
The benefits of thinking this thought is that it will decrease the intensity of our negative emotion. It may not eliminate the anxiety we are feeling, but it will decrease the intensity of it. Then, we can go into the conversation more present, calm, and focused on the actual message our boss….or partner, or friend may be trying to convey to us.
In my example, I was able to challenge my initial thinking and feelings of anxiety by adopting a more curious line of thinking such as wondering why my boss was asking me into his office. My anxiety did not go away, but it was more manageable and helped me be more present, open and able to respond more effectively to what my boss was trying to tell…..
Which, in this case, actually was my boss asking me for advice about how to handle a situation with another staff member he was dealing with. If I hadn’t challenged my thinking, then I would have risked appearing anxious, defensive, hostile, or guarded during a conversation where my boss seeking my advice.
Thus, whenever you are about to have a difficult conversation with someone or in the middle of a difficult conversation, ask yourself what are some of your initial thoughts, assumptions, interpretations, or emotional reactions that might be inhibiting you from fully enjoying the conversation or responding in a more effective manner.