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You’re Placed in an Impossible Scenario
Imagine for a moment you’re in a conference room full of people—maybe you’re the only woman, an entry-level employee, new to the workplace, or in some way feeling slightly or overtly, othered.
A colleague or manager addresses your performance in front of the entire conference room. Maybe you’ve been late the last few days, or your sales numbers are down, maybe a client complained. Regardless of what it is, addressing the matter in front of an entire group of people doesn’t make the situation easier to digest or process. It doesn’t allow for open dialogue and mutual understanding on the matter.
Evaluate the Situation
Once you’ve been put on the spot, a dynamic has been created. You may believe you have only two choices:
1) stand up for yourself and address the colleague or manager in a way others may deem aggressive or insubordinate
2) acknowledge the content and allow this uncomfortable behavior to go unaddressed
Scenario 1 can make you feel out of place, perhaps it’s not your typical approach to be aggressive or argumentative. Being addressed regarding a problem at work can feel like an attack if it’s not presented in an open and authentic way.
Scenario 2 can directly reduce your own view of your self-worth and self-value. Consciously allowing certain behaviors from people communicates to your subconscious that those behaviors are acceptable and you’re worthy of them, therefore not worthy of better behavior.
Neither option provides the freedom for you to exercise your own personal approach. Once you’ve been forced into a dynamic, it can be difficult to find footing that will help you exercise what feels right and authentic for you. But you don’t have to sacrifice your self-view or self-worth by operating within a dynamic you didn’t consent to participate in.
How to Stand Up for Yourself Without Being Rude
The third, but much less obvious scenario is to withdraw from the situation.
Scenario 3 allows you to reassess, and find the confidence to express your needs. If you’re in a conference room of coworkers and your boss has singled you out, it’s entirely appropriate to enforce your boundaries at that moment.
It may not feel appropriate or welcome, but you always have a choice of whether or not you allow certain behaviors. Scenarios 1 and 2 force you to operate within the dynamic that was created, scenario 3 provides the opportunity to remove yourself from the dynamic and regain equal footing in a different setting.
There will be consequences either way.
Consequence 1 You’ll convince yourself you need to endure this treatment to preserve your job and continue earning money/advancing in your career/caring for your family. Your subconscious will start to believe there is no point in telling anyone how you should be treated because sacrifices are necessary for survival—a protective but harmful fallacy.
Consequence 2 You’ll regain footing by withdrawing from the dynamic created and re-engaging in a different setting. You will demonstrate to yourself and your subconscious—through actions—that how you feel is important and how you want to feel is worthy of pursuit.
Identifying Subtle Communication
The manager initiated a power dynamic. You are, indirectly, reminded that your behavior in response to how you’re being treated will impact your standing in the company. Arguing could result in disciplinary action. Allowing the behavior diminishes your self-view and self-worth and your overall quality of happiness in life.
It’s important to understand that you cannot protect yourself from the impacts of allowed negative behavior.
When you ok the passage of negative treatment, your self-worth is impacted. Your conscious mind will easily blame your boss or the people who put you in the unfortunate situation, but your subconscious will hold you accountable because you are the protector, communicator, and advocate for your feelings, you are the exerciser of your boundaries.
How do you handle it?
Express and request.
- Express how you feel, “I feel embarrassed, uncomfortable, singled-out, disrespected, etc.”
- Request a reasonable remedy, “Can we talk about this in private?”
If you’re not able to speak at the moment—which is entirely normal—and you’re wondering how to stand up for yourself without crying, you can withdraw physically. You may be wondering if leaving the room would be insubordinate. Directly, no. Indirectly, a company acting in bad faith can make its own rules and definitions. As can any person. Get up, go to the bathroom. Soothe yourself. You deserve to be soothed when you feel upset.
Operating within a dynamic is not specific to employment, sometimes friends or family or spouses force dynamics on us as well. We tell ourselves stories about why sticking up for our needs could be dangerous.
Take Care of Your Needs
When you return, you can explain your behavior by stating that you felt uncomfortable within the dynamic you were placed and did not want to operate within that dynamic so you chose to withdraw and re-address.
Your feelings deserve your respect. It’s not always comfortable to exercise our boundaries or express feelings to other people, because when we do, we’re allowing them to consent to care. This means they have the ability to choose to not care—and that can hurt. In an attempt to protect ourselves from being hurt, we sometimes try to force people into caring, either overtly or subtly, by making statements about what we believe to be logical or fact-based.
People Have a Right to Consent to Care
Example: “Anyone would be embarrassed by being called out in a conference room.”
This statement is universally untrue because we can’t sum up the reactions of all, or even most people, in an attempt to correct someone else’s actions. Rather than addressing how we feel in return, they’ll argue the logic of that very point. Their argument will translate to us that they don’t care about our feelings. Communication has then become obscured.
Rather try, “I was embarrassed when you called me out in the conference room and I didn’t feel comfortable engaging that way.”
The second statement expresses your feelings of embarrassment, allowing the other person to decide whether or not they want to empathize with your position.
If they do not want to empathize with your position and respect your request to avoid that approach in the future, it’s up to you to decide when and how to exercise your boundaries further.
A choice to not exercise boundaries, whether it’s because you’re afraid of losing a job, an opportunity, facing disciplinary action, or changing a relationship, will directly impact your self-worth. If your feelings are not worthy of your action, you’re communicating to your subconscious that they’re not worthy of anyone’s action.
How to Care for Your Needs
- Indulge your comfort, it directly impacts your self-worthy and quality of life
- Try to recognize when you’re placed in a dynamic and you feel trapped
- Respect and honor your needs, don’t shame them away
You are your own greatest communicator and biggest advocate.