Chuck was a short, rotund college professor seemingly incapable of being in anything but a good mood. One morning a thunderstorm broke. Having forgotten his umbrella, he made his usual walk to class, greeting everyone cheerfully on the way. Soaked to the bone, he remained happy while his annoyed students peeled off their wet clothes and complained about the downpour. “Hey Chuck, aren’t you at all bothered by the rain?” one student asked. Smiling, the professor replied, “Sure, but I benefit from my lack of height—it takes longer for the rain to reach me.”
Rather than be victimized by the weather, Chuck made a different choice. He carried his own weather. He chose how to think, feel and act based on what he valued rather than on external circumstances. He loved teaching math and creating a positive learning environment for his students. What was a little rain compared to that?
If you believe that external things like co-workers, bosses or limited resources are the source of your unhappiness or happiness, life will always happen to you. You’ll feel powerless and find reasons to blame others and justify your reactive behavior. In time, your personal brand reads “difficult to work with,” and your ability to influence shrinks.
When we’re triggered emotionally, it’s easy to forget we have a choice as to how we will respond. The late Dr. Stephen R. Covey said, “Between what happens to us and how we react to what happens to us is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose.”
If you want to have a more influence in your life, or if your emotions are getting in your way, choose to Carry Your Own Weather by doing these three things.
Identify a person or situation that irritates you and triggers your reactivity. Reactive behavior can be anything from verbal outbursts, to being nice in the moment but sabotaging and resenting people later, to withdrawing entirely.
Describe the desired outcome you want in that relationship or situation. If you have a micromanaging boss, your outcome may be to have the boss trust you more. If you have a colleague who takes credit for work you do, you may want more recognition for your contribution. If have a difficult relationship with your teenage child, you may want more open, respectful conversations.
Identify 2-3 new behaviors you will do next time you encounter that relationship/situation. Play these new behaviors out in your mind. Imagine how they might affect the situation, the other person, your feelings, and your ability to positively influence in the future. Remember, you have control only over your own behavior—no one else’s.
If identifying new behaviors seems too difficult, start by interrupting your reactive behavior until you determine a plan for the future. For example,
· Write an email to the person who has triggered you with the intention of not sending it. Get out all of your negative feelings and reactive words. Let it sit overnight, then read it again and see if it accurately reflects what you value and how you feel the next day.
· Take a deep breath, count to ten, or tell the person you need a little time to reflect before you respond. In that “space” connect to what you value and the long-term outcome you want, then return to the situation.
· Roleplay the situation with a trusted colleague or friend. Try out various new behaviors to see which one you feel most confident applying in the real situation.
Carrying your weather can be as simple as maintaining a professional disposition or as challenging as consistently living by what you deeply value. At the heart of it is choice. And that power can never be surrendered unless you allow it.
People who take the time to identify the outcomes they want and consciously choose behaviors that align with those outcomes have far greater influence at work and far greater capacity to build effective relationships.
Todd Davis is EVP, Chief People Officer for FranklinCovey and author of Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work