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Have you had that experience? Where you are meeting with your supervisor…either one-on-one or during a team meeting. She is guiding the conversation and asking compelling questions. Then you give your take on something, and it is as if you’re speaking another language. Then you make the judgment that this isn’t the meeting for you to lay out a strategy or viewpoint, so you stay silent. The meeting ends with your boss commending you/everyone in the room on a good outcome…”we got a lot done”.
Hmmmmm…”What just happened?”
I’ll never forget a strategy meeting earlier in my career. Fairly new to the team, I had been faithful to task in learning the processes and applying myself to fitting into the structure rhythms of our work team. When my supervisor called me in to talk about future directions, he asked my input on our marketing strategies. I actually thought he wanted to know what I thought. As we dialogued back and forth about what we were doing and what we could do to strengthen our messaging, I felt like a genuine and valued part of the team. Then my earnestness and enthusiasm must have gone too far. He commended my “good ideas” (a phrase that has come to mean a negative since then) and asked me to draw up a 5-year plan and we’d talk about those ideas again then.
Although he and I remain friends, we no longer work together. I never did that plan. The kind of work we did was so rapid in it evolution and execution that a 5-year plan was clearly irrelevant. It was clearly just a delay tactic for me to take my “good ideas” and tamp them down.
Not bitter…just wiser. So for that I’m thankful.
I’d like to pose 3 actions that might help in awkward situations like these. They are by no means comprehensive. Just three helps.
1) Take notes in meetings. Put away your phones and other electronic devices. Pen and pad. Not being distracted by anything else will keep you more fully engaged with the conversation at hand. Note-taking is not for everyone, but you’ll be surprised how helpful it will be to refer back to the meeting conversation. Who said what? Where were the good ideas coming from? What were the responses? You can then keep communication going after the meeting in a healthy manner. You have captured the essence of what happened…important information is not lost…whatever happens next (execution of a plan or further planning meetings) potentially have the clarity you missed in today’s meeting.Photo Credit: PxHere
By the way, maybe someone is already tasked with note-taking. It’s for your sake…maybe only your sake. Worth it if you’ve been having head-scratching experiences of late.
2) Refuse to think ill of others. – Whenever possible, keep your thoughts away from negativity. Especially in judging the motives and character of people you work with. When we operate out of a determination to think well of them, communication can have greater clarity. For sure from our side. It’s when we allow our thoughts to go negative that we conversations can go murky.
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Now, there are limits to this, and I get that. In fact, we are wise to isolate out those who have shown themselves untrustworthy. Dr. Henry Cloud wrote the book Necessary Endings which has an excellent chapter on the three kinds of people in the world – wise, foolish, and evil. Cloud explores, with little sentimentality, how we are to act in the company of each. I’m sure we all hope to find ourselves among the wise.
3) Recognize that “gaslighting” can be operating in a meeting and no, you’re not going crazy. Recognize it; don’t take it personally; deflect; confront the perpetrator. Move on if possible.
“Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make targets question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.” – Wikipedia
“Gaslighting is a colloquial term that describes a type of psychological abuse in which the abuser denies the victim’s reality, causing him/her to question him/herself, his/her memory, or his/her perceptions. The term gaslighting is also sometimes used to apply to the use of inflammatory behavior or language that provokes someone to behave in an uncharacteristic way.” – TheGoodTherapy.org Team
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I wrote about gaslighting before here.
Gaslighting often happens in relationships when one person uses a sometimes subtle manipulation to cause the other to think maybe she/he misunderstood or over-reacted to something the former did or said. In this unhealthy situation repeated over the course of the relationship, the one being “gaslighted” can begin to distrust her/himself and even go as far as to question their sanity.
I have had this experience and it is highly unsettling.
Ironically, gaslighting can be done by a “good guy” who has developed some habits he uses without mean intent. It can happen to all of us…I’m thinking.
Read psychologist Stephanie Sarkis‘ two pieces below. Very helpful.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
If you got to the end of all this, here is quite a different piece on “What just happened?” – when your boss may be impressed with you without showing it. Enjoy!