How Not to Lose Friends and Alienate People

I was told about of a person who goes into battle with people who disagree with her.

Surprise! Most people give her a wide berth on touchy issues. She also does not have many close friends.

This is a case of self sabotage and is a way to derail a career or contaminate a friendship.

The key to managing such unruly emotions involves both Reality Testing and Impulse Control.

Reality Testing

It is of paramount importance that we see our world as it really is and not have fantasies about what is going on. Our emotions cannot cloud our objectivity.

For instance when there is a minor perturbation in your world like the arrival of an unexpected letter from the IRS, bad traffic on the way to work, a child comes home with a less than stellar report card, or your project starts running late,

You choose not to freak out when you,

* Size up the situation for what it is

* See it as a one time incident and not something that will happen all the time

* Do not allow the stress of the situation to color your perceptions

* View it as a problem to be solved rather than the beginning of a battle

* Recognize that your mind can make the problem bigger than it actually is

With your reality testing intact you have a better chance for

Impulse Control

Successful people know both how to name as well as hit the brakes on their feelings.   Consider the following examples.

  • A colleague disrespects you or someone you know. Your impulse is to get overly emotional and “cut them off at the knees” with a sharp verbal response. Your better choice. Cool down and decide whether to let the incident pass or make a boundary setting remark like “Let’s stick with the issue at hand and not make this personal”
  • You are deeply disappointed by a leadership decision that impacts you personally e.g. you were not promoted. Your impulse may be to complain to anyone who will listen.Your better choiceAsk you boss for feedback as to how you could be better prepared for such a position in the future.

Reflection and Response

What insights have you had and actions have you taken to keep you from being derailed by your emotions?


About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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2 Responses to How Not to Lose Friends and Alienate People

  1. Jeff West says:

    Great article. This was me for many years after I got out of the Army. Fostered by a totally independent upbringing the “I don’t need anyone” survivor attitude was very hard to alter. It morphed into a new attitude of “ignore, bide my time, then burn down the village”. Career cul-de-sacs over and over. Fortunately I was good at what I did so I survived despite my attitude. I learned much later that many of my issues were classic PTSD responses. If I had the help I needed early on things would have been much different I’m sure. I’m glad that our returning service men and women can get the help they need today.

    • cedricj says:

      Great description of PTSD responses which put can put a person on automatic pilot that takes them in directions they don’t fully understand or want. I worked with folks in the VA early on in my psychologist career and treated many Viet Nam vets.

      Getting to reality testing and impulse control is not always a simple process. But change is possible with caring and competent help. I agree that the current group of veterans have better treatment options than you did in your day Jeff. However, you seem to have white knuckled your way through your past traumas resulting in an excellent outcome: high self-awareness and healthy living. Congratulations.

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