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How to Appropriately Handle Difficult Situations in a Work Environment

and knowing when it's OK to speak up, speak out and how to move forward

Ever since I ventured out into the “real world” eight years ago, I’ve always been very cautious when it came to speaking up in the workplace. This fear started at a young age and only progressed as I got older. I quickly started to realize that what I said actually did not matter. I would sit in meetings and creative brainstorm sessions, terrified to say a word because of the outcome. Being interrupted and spoken over seemed to be the norm. I learned pretty quickly that I wasn’t allowed to have an opinion or chime in with any creative input. I was there to simply help other people with their jobs and make their lives easier. Not being able to speak up spiraled into an abundance of various emotions. These emotions primarily consisted of negative thoughts, unhappiness and fear. Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger; it can cause even the most secure person to quiver with anxiety. Learning how to control it, and move past this emotion is imperative and can be your key to expressing your unspoken thoughts.

Nowadays, more and more people (especially women) are learning to speak up for themselves and are realizing that it is O-K. As a woman myself, I have struggled with this, but as the years go by and I gain more experience in the work environment, I am finally starting to realize that it is okay for me to speak up, especially in difficult situations. In any professional setting, there are going to be times when you will be put in an uncomfortable situation, whether that is having to deal with a demanding boss who is always on your case, having to work with a grueling co-worker or dealing with a problematic client (or two). These situations will happen and it will be your responsibility to figure out how to deal with these situations. Where do you start?

Always be the bigger person. This is imperative in any difficult situation that you find yourself in. How do you become the bigger person and why is it up to YOU to be that person? Well for starters, it is much easier this way. If anything, this will show that other person that they will not get to you today and you’re stronger than them, you’re more professional than they are and more importantly, they’re not going to ruin your day.

Stand your ground. If you’re right, know that you’re right and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you’re in a situation where the other person is being unprofessional or negative – refuse to give in to them. You know what’ right, so stick to what’s right.

Keep your head held high. When we’re feeling attacked or we feel upset, frustrated, hurt, especially by someone else’s actions – we tend to shut down. I can’t tell you how many times I have walked out of an office to cool off (and sometimes have a good cry in my car) because of an uncomfortable situation with my boss, a disagreement with a co-worker or a rude email or phone call from a client. In less than 10 seconds, someone can make you feel like the worst human being on the planet and can suck all of the positivity out of you just from one conversation. It’s important to remember that no matter what the situation is, always walk out of the situation with your head held high. Confidence in yourself is more important than a negative opinion from someone. As long as you know that you did everything you could do, maintained a positive attitude and handled what you needed with professionalism and a smile – you did the right thing. Do not let somebody else’s opinion and negativity affect who you are as a person. Things will always have a way of working themselves out and at the end of the day, know that you were the bigger person.

Tomorrow is always a new day. We all have bad days here and there from time to time and they’re completely inevitable to avoid. One of my favorite phrases has always been that “tomorrow is a new day”. When we go to sleep and wake up in the morning, we know that what had happened yesterday is now in the past. A new day is a fresh start, to fix any problems that occurred the day before, to mend a relationship or talk things through because you’ve had time to decompress. Sometimes one of the best ways to handle a situation is to circle back on it at a later time. Once we’ve had time to cool off from a negative occurrence, we’re in a much better mindset and will typically approach the situation in a much positive manner.

No matter what, at some point in your life, you will be put in a difficult situation. There will be people that want to argue with you, tell you “you’re wrong” and will ultimately bring you down with any chance that they get. I have an extremely tough time understanding why people behave the way that they do. I believe in sticking up for what’s right and there is always a way to handle a situation. Just remember the next time you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, that you can do this, and everything will work itself out. Going through these experiences and learning how to move forward from the difficult situation, will only help you grow as a person and you will become a better person because of it.

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