I remember the meeting vividly. I was trying to work out a schedule with a project manager, and it seemed like nothing I said worked for him. In fact, the more possible solutions I proposed, the more agitated he became. What was I doing wrong?
Afterward I chalked up his negativity to his “having a bad day” or something like that. But I have to wonder – what if it was me causing his negative emotions?
We've all met people who've rubbed us the wrong way. The person with the high pitched voice. The person with the off-the-scale energy levels. The person with the Pollyanna-like positivity. Or if you’re referring to me – the person with all three of these potential flaws. The question is, “Can I learn to identify when I am the cause of someone’s negative emotion?” And the follow on question, “Can I learn to do something about it?”
Through all these years that I've been supposed to be amassing wisdom, I've learned that I am much better at dealing with my own emotions when someone annoys me than I am at dealing with the emotions of the person I happen to be annoying. Because basically I have to figure out how to step back, figure out what I’m saying / doing / projecting that is annoying the other person, and then correct it.
The easiest thing to do, of course, would be to ask the other person what it is about me that s/he finds annoying. Unfortunately, that puts the other person in the position of having to tell me – which they may find uncomfortable. I did try this once – a long time ago when I was in college. Her reply? “You should know.” Not very helpful.
So I keep plugging along. I try to make a conscious effort to slow down when I speak and to sit still in meetings. I practice at home by not bouncing every time I think of something I should be doing. Or fixing. Or writing down. (This is hard.) And I use my emotional intelligence skills to calmly accept any feedback I’m given and sincerely thank the giver.