A man who works with his adult children resents that they don’t ‘respect’ him. Then he behaves in such a way as to drive them away. He complains bitterly about how they don’t say good morning, fail to include him in important discussions and avoid meeting with him privately. Interactions rarely end well. The pattern has been like this for as long as anyone can remember.
This is a vivid example of an undeniable truth: “That which you fear, you cause to occur.” Here are two ways to see if you are your own worst enemy and one action you can do to end the vicious cycle of self-fulfilling prophecies. If you do, you will become a stronger, more effective leader who gets more of what you want.
First, you need to be self-aware to notice whether this is happening to you? Do people avoid asking you questions? Do they find a reason to cut short conversations and move on? These are telltale signs that they are afraid of being drawn into conversations they don’t want to have.
Second, do you feel resentful or disrespected by a loved one or other VIP in your life? If so, notice these moments. Notice when you feel ignored by emails and phone calls that get no response. Notice how you handle it. What are your thoughts? Do you rationalize it away? Do you bite your tongue? Do you make a sarcastic remark?
The way we react to how people treat us has an enormous future effect. This is how we create self-fulfilling prophecies. We want people to do something for us. Then they don’t. Then we get upset. Then they avoid us altogether – or do it resentfully – once!
Strong leadership is measured by whether people do what you want, freely and willingly. If you have to repeatedly pressure them into doing it, you’re failing. You’re not a leader, you’re a supervisor hovering over them to make sure they do it. It’s exhausting and it rarely sustains itself in the long run.
One action we can take to break this peace-robbing cycle is this: Look in the mirror at that which you fear. What is it about being ignored that bothers you? This is a common and understandably discomfort for many people. Being ignored triggers fears of being worthless and abandoned. The ego craves attention and this is what makes mastering our fears not only an emotional challenge but a spiritual one too.
Anytime we experience fears that are existential, such as abandonment, we are dealing with an affair of the soul. Our very being feels threatened.
The key is to look this fear squarely in the eye. Ask yourself, why does action by others trigger a fear, anxiety or unhappiness? What am I afraid would happen if I was not afraid of this? The answer is often, “That it would happen even more.”
Many times, I have helped clients overcome fears by this latter question. Once we see our own truth in the answer, we realize that this is a false belief. In reality, accepting that which we fear could occur, actually releases us from the self-fulfilling behaviours that bring on the fears in the first place.
This is an example of how we become neutral about outcomes. When we are at peace about formerly fear-based outcomes (like being ignored), we suddenly see clearly what to do. Our calm response calms those around us. They are attracted to us, not repelled. We can then choose to accept their involvement or not. We get to choose! This is life-empowering and it expands our leadership capacity to handle difficult situations.
For serious fears and anxieties, private coaching or therapy are the two best options. Coaching focuses on getting to action. Therapy focuses on the root causes of the blockage – likely childhood experiences from our parents or friends or other hurtful experiences in our past.
I encourage you to bravely look that which you fear directly in the eye. Name your fear and it will diminish in size. Thereafter you will conquer it. You will experience a new level of inner peace, more confidence in leading others and a growing trust that the universe is a safe place. Remember, it takes an unstuck leader to unstuck someone else.
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