Catching up with an old friend the other day, she expressed her dismay with a current project she was working on in her job. The project, itself, she loved, it was certain people on her team that were driving her bananas....I think the term she actually used was, "bat-shit crazy". One person was striving for power struggle, while one person wasn't pulling their weight and others seemed to need hand-holding, rather than taking any initiative. It reminded me of my time in the corporate world and working closely with many different personalities. It reminded me of so many of you who still deal with this every day. How do we deal with these people who drive us 'bat-shit crazy' in our work, a place where we spend so much of our time that they seem like dysfunctional family members rather than coworkers?
What if we began to see everyone as a teacher? Even on our best days we can encounter difficulty with another person, our partner, our friend, co-worker, even a stranger on the street. The challenge ranges from a minor annoyance to unfathomable rudeness. Yet, it's not so much the challenge we face, but our reaction to it.
In my work with conflict resolution, I approach it by seeing each individual before the group. Think about it, every individual person in this world is walking around, running their own set of patterns and triggers. Then they bump up against another individual who is running their junk. Sometimes when the two meet it's simpatico. Other times we bump up against another person and their stuff sets off highly reactive triggers within us. And then there is everything in between. So when we're working within a group dynamic it's important to remember that even though you're coworkers, you are people first (something often forgotten in the corporate world).
As we become frustrated with someone, there is a different path we can choose. Taking a step back from our reactive mind and simply observing that person in their patterns, we begin to have a wider capacity to understand, empathize and practice compassion. Taking that coworker with whom you're in constant power struggle...he/she may seem overly confident, but chances are they are highly insecure. What is it like to walk in their shoes of such intense insecurity all the time? What sort of pain does it cause in their emotional mind and physical body? What must it be like to live with that set of fears all the time?
Why are we triggered by certain people? As we become more of the witness to others it's of course an opportunity to witness ourselves. Where do these triggers come from? How old is that younger piece of yourself stepping forward and reacting to the person with whom you're in conflict?
For years I got so incensed when I experienced disrespectful behavior from another person, whether it was directed at me or someone else. I'd get so reactive and angry. Then I began to take a look at why that was and where it came from. I got some interesting insights which went much farther back then I realized. It dawned on me that I was wearing around some old family imprints rather than allowing a more evolved me to step forward and navigate these issues. It doesn't mean that I still don't get triggered or that I tolerate this sort of behavior, but my response is vastly different. Rather than getting so incensed I simply point it out in a more gentle way...the way a parent might do with a child. In this process we have an ability to be guides, which offers a deeper service in the world.
Here's a simple practice I love from Jack Kornfield's A Path With a Heart:
"Imagine that this earth is filled with Buddhas, that every single being you encounter is enlightened, except one...yourself! Imagine they are all here to teach you. Whoever you encounter is acting solely for your benefit, to provide just the teachings and difficulties you need in order to awaken."
Practice this today and just notice how it can shift your relationship to the difficult people you face. There is abundant growth in allowing ourselves the opportunity to step back from our reactive mind and take a seat in our center. A large part of conflict resolution is about shifting perspective. We may not change the other person, but if we can learn more about ourselves and the other person then we can release the inner struggle we experience and ultimately become more solutions-based.