Are you willing to move through uncomfortable situations rather than avoid them?

Are you willing to respond to work-related situations rather than to react to them?

We can’t help but react; it’s an emotional situation that happens within instantaneously…in our minds and our bodies. Responding, however, carries within it the option of choice. When we choose how to respond to uncomfortable situations, we are giving ourselves options. Or…we can stay with our defensive reactions, karate-chopping both our real and perceived enemies identically and without discernment.

At best, our defensiveness will make us miserable (and that’s at its best!); at worst, our defensiveness will take down our business’s effectiveness.

For instance: A client says to you, “You know, I’d really rather you had given me more of xyz when I asked you for abc!” Your internal reaction, and your internal dialogue, is inelegant: “What the hell are you saying to me? That’s not what you asked for! You said you wanted xyz, you moron! Don’t blame me for not giving you what you didn’t tell me you wanted!” When you are hijacked by defensiveness, you want to tell your client to take a hike (and that’s you being polite at that moment!). When you are in control of your response, you might take a breath and take stock of what is important:

  • Is this colleague someone who you can usually – or always – trust?
  • Is what this colleague saying something that could be helpful in any way?
  • What kind of businesswoman or man do you want to be, and how do you want to appear to those with whom and for whom you work? Measured and professional? Or excitable and immature?
  • What is most important in this moment? Finding a way to keep the client? Trying to understand a troubling situation? Striking back?

What exactly are your options when you are reacting defensively and you would rather respond?

(1) Communicate! At least for a few moments, give this person the benefit of the doubt. Give yourself a moment to find out if what you think is being said, is really what is being said! Believe it or not, there is usually a possibility of misinterpreting what another is trying to communicate. If you use the phrasing “When you said xyz, it sounded to me like you were saying abc! Is that what you meant?”, you will be opening the door to a calmer and more professional interaction, and you will increase your possibility of both learning something, and maintaining a relationship. Keep asking questions until you have clarity about what was said and what was meant. Then you can respond from a place of calm strength, and you will feel informed and far less upset.

(2) Be honest with yourself! Are you being defensive? In other words, are you having a strong and uncontrollable urge to protect yourself? Sometimes, defensiveness is warranted and sometimes it is not. Either way, you need to take the reins when it comes to your reactions, because it is only by doing so that you can move from reacting to responding. And in responding lies your power as a person and as a professional.

(3) Find the gold nugget in the trash! So you are in a troubling situation and you have the option to walk away from that person and what they are saying to you. But you have another option as well: to discover what there is in the situation that seriously benefits you. And that is your gold nugget. Could the gold nugget be that, in the midst of your extreme discomfort, you took a very mature and challenging moment to check in with your client to determine if your perceptions were accurate? Or was the gold nugget that what your client said was actually helpful to you, when you let go of feeling judged? Or was your gold nugget that you found an elegant way to free yourself and your client from a bad relationship by respectfully ending it? You have to grow the discernment and self-awareness to know!

One thing is for sure: If you simply react, and never find ways to get to the power of choice in how you respond to colleagues and clients, you either slow down your business or you minimize your comfort.  Neither option is optimal, and neither is worthy of who you are: a business professional.
The Project Cheetah is a Virtual Contractor bringing quality digital marketing, event management and creative solutions to entrepreneurs and small-to-medium sized businesses. (For information about Personal Growth Empowerment and Communication webinars and workshops for business professionals, contact Lori at