Have you ever been told you’re too aggressive? Or worried that you were?
Or perhaps you’ve been told you’re not aggressive enough! You’re too “timid” or “shy” in meetings..
The subject came up in PPP (Presence Power Possibility: Advance Your Leadership) - the 3 month group coaching programme we started in June.
Toxic environments can be highly critical and leave you feeling like there’s something wrong with you. It can leave you feeling like you don’t belong or don’t have something to contribute.
You’re either too much or not enough…
But what if it weren’t true? What if you reframed it? For example:
“You’re too aggressive” becomes I’m passionate and have something important to say (in the style of Michelle Obama).
“You’re not aggressive enough” becomes: Empathy is not weakness. I can be compassionate and strong (in the style of Jacinda Ardern).
Of course, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t check in and develop self-awareness.
But self-awareness doesn’t mean you have to get rid of how you express yourself.
It might just mean that you take responsibility for it and deploy it with wisdom, as the situation calls for.
It also means committing to seeing beyond the cultural assumptions that are projected all over the place including onto you.
System vs individual
Coaching tends to be very much focused on the individual. In my work, I take a systemic view as well.
Here are 3 things you can do if you’ve been labelled as “too aggressive” or “not aggressive enough” in a particular environment:
What are the cultural norms in that environment? Which values (assumptions of what’s most important) do these norms assume? Competition? Conformism? Inequality? Or collaboration, compassion, and fairness? Etc.
Do you agree with the values embedded in those norms? Do you want to live by them? Spending enough time in an environment means you start to internalise its norms. If they’re not aligned with your values, you will feel the impact on your physical and mental wellbeing. You’ll feel out of alignment and out of integrity which has a cumulative cost.
What do you choose to do deliberately and intentionally? If you agree with the values, what can you do to espouse them further? If you don’t agree, how can you find your own frequency within the organisation, or temporise while you look beyond the current environment to the road less travelled? There are only 4 options in any situation…(remember what they are?)
Whatever your decision in the long term, there are principles of communication that will help you any time.
When we speak the truth with calm and intentionality, the consequences may be tough in the short term but always beneficial in the long term. In my experience, it leads to an immediate sense of freedom (and usually a sense of guilt at first).
If you really struggling with owning your self-expression, you can always start with putting what you want to say through a wisdom filter of your choice, until you become more at ease and immune to criticism. For example, one I use from conscious communication practice:
Is it true? (to you, at least)
Is it kind? (this doesn’t mean that you avoid saying unpleasant or challenging things)
Does it bring more harmony? (in the universe even if it causes waves in the culture)
Is it beneficial? (at least in your wisdom)
Is the timing right?
[For a very practical approach to dealing with criticism gracefully with 4 suggested strategies, watch the video below.]
Trust your intuition and experiment. Let me know how you get on.
Have a good week,
p.s. I need your help.
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