How Free Are You?
How free are you? Generally, at work, and in our relationships, how free we feel is an important part of our overall well being. When we do not feel free, we feel stress. To have more freedom in any area of our life we must first notice when we do not feel free. We must become aware when we do not feel free before we can begin to do anything about changing those feelings. This sounds simple, but if we look more closely into this it becomes clear that we often do not recognize when we do not feel free, and we do not view our lack of freedom as a cause for our feelings of frustration and sometimes anger.
An example of when we don’t recognize we are not feeling free, and how we don’t view our not feeling free as a cause of our feelings of frustration, can be found in common experiences we have at work. For example: we are busy at work when someone holding a position as our superior calls or comes to us with a request. They say something like:
Hey [Your Name Here], I’ve got a meeting in an hour, call Mary, ask her for the quarterly report, and get it to me in 30 minutes, okay? The best part of this request is the closing question put to us, “…okay?”
We know at the most basic level this is entirely not okay. But we face a much more serious issue that instantly causes us intense stress. We acknowledge the person who made this request as being in a position of authority over us, and in fact they do have power over our job, so because of our choice to do all we can to protect our job we do not feel free to respond to this demand posed as a request honestly. The honest response we want to give goes something like this:
“No, it’s not okay. I’m swamped. And wouldn’t it have been a better use of your time to just call Mary yourself?”
But we do not respond honestly because we choose to protect our job. A couple of important things we experience in this example are:
- We do not respond honestly to the person making the request.
- We also are not aware of our true feelings. We are only aware of our feelings about how unfair this request is.
We are aware of how imposing the request feels because we know the person making the request is in a position of power/authority over us. And we assume they expect us to do what they ask. We may also be aware of how stressed and frustrated we feel. But even though we are aware of these feelings, we still offer a dishonest response like:
“Sure. I’ll get right on it.”
“What else can I do?” Is The Big Question
This example situation, and others like it, happens often and many times throughout our lives. And each time we feel intense stress and frustration which takes a tremendous toll on us over time. There is something else we can do. We can choose to respond with awareness and integrity. What that means in this example is to process the request from an awareness perspective, first by taking care not to take the request personally, by not making assumptions, and by responding with integrity. Let’s break this down.
It’s Not Personal
The person who made this request has their own reason for coming to you and asking you to make the call to Mary. If we do not take it personally, we can be aware of this and understand that this has nothing at all to do with us. Nothing. What this awareness does is powerful. First it takes away our feelings of unfairness and all the frustration and anger that results from that feeling. It also empowers us to be free to choose how we view the request and what response we will make. It opens up a lot more choices for how we look at the request and what to do about it. And we feel free when we have choices we like.
Don’t Make Assumptions
We make the common response, “Sure. I’ll get right on it.” because we assume that is what the person who made the request wants to hear. That’s the honest reason we give that response. But the truth is we don’t know what the person who made the request wants to hear. We actually have no idea whatsoever about what they want or need. I like to tell people “My crystal ball does not work. It never has. I have no way of knowing what you or anyone else is thinking or feeling. And the only way I can know what you’re thinking or feeling is by what you tell me.” The truth is that only way we can share our thoughts and feelings, or know the thoughts and feelings of someone else, is by communication. That is why we have language and writing to help us communicate our feelings. Getting back to our example, if we don’t assume what the person who made the request wants to hear, we are free to choose a response that best fits our needs. And let’s be clear, when we take care of our needs everything we do will be better because it will be full of our best effort and reflect our happiness. That’s a win-win for all.
Respond With Integrity
When someone asks us to do something we cannot address the other persons wants or needs when we do not know what they are. What we can do is focus on the request without taking things personally or making assumptions. Going back to the example situation, one reason we might feel frustrated with the request is because we will have to set aside something else we were already working on to do what was asked. We may be concerned about this because we will be held responsible if we do not complete that task as promised. In this case, one way to respond to the request with integrity is to say something like:
“I’m working on [Name Of That Thing You Are Working On Here], and it’s due today at 3 o’clock. Based on that, and the other commitments I have right now, I’m concerned I may not make the 3 o’clock deadline if I take the time to contact and follow up with Mary. Would you check and email me approval for moving back my 3 o’clock deliverable till tomorrow morning?”
This response addresses our real issue — being pulled away from a prior commitment without having the power to adjust the deadline and expectations, effectively communicates our concerns, sets us up to get formal written approval for an extension on the 3 o’clock deadline (which addresses our real issue), responds to the request directly, and relieves the stress and pressure we felt.
We can find new freedom in most situations by not taking things personally, not making assumptions, responding with integrity, and bringing peaceful objective awareness to how we look at the situation. Practicing this approach allows us to discover new options for more effective communication and gives us more freedom.