I’ve just had it. I really don’t care to hear any more on this subject.

And with that comment in a meeting with his peers and superiors, a usually thoughtful and caring executive lost about 90% of his power base. It’s going to take him months to regain the level of support and confidence he’d worked so hard to attain with this group. And it didn’t need to happen this way.

Social psychologists tell us that many of our negative responses in meetings or with others have a great deal to do with the wounds of our childhood. When unaware of them, we frequently allow them to lead our actions. They end up creating new ones – for us and those around us.

In a paper written years ago by the International Coach Academy (ICA), this phenomenon was noted and expanded, stating that, “our relationship with the world around us, whether it be other people, things, or events, and our experience of life – is determined by the way in which we relate to it. Hence, it is our relationship with each one that truly determines what kind of life we have, lead and experience.” I agree with this concept and believe that many unfortunate outcomes in company meetings are a direct result of this pre-conditioning.

In a conversation with a client today, the concept came up again. My client was cranky about how she had been dissed by a colleague in a meeting for saying something that the other person had felt was out of line.

“How he reacted was what was really out of line,” she noted. “I may have been off base but that reaction was very off-putting.” She went on to say that after the meeting, other participants had come to her saying that the guy was so off base it was surreal. Clearly they thought his attack on my client was inappropriate and actually kind of sophomoric. It’s going to take him a long time to regain his reputation for being fair and unbiased.

And this didn’t need to occur.

It’s all about understanding the difference between reacting and responding: Rather than just blurting out what one feels, if we take a moment to actually be aware of what we’re feeling before we open our mouth, the really negative stuff will be less likely to come out. Kind of like the old advice to “count to 10 before you say anything you’ll be sorry for.” But, for some reason, as they advance through the ranks in organizations, some people lose that early common sense. They start to just react first and think later. According to the ICA’s paper, “the action of reacting… comes from somewhere in the past, and is powerless. It is powerless because the response is sometimes devoid of ‘a worthy action.'”

Keep this notion in mind the next time you feel like letting someone know exactly how you feel, in the spirit of “being honest.” Otherwise, you risk losing credibility and power – both of which will take a long time to recover.


Leadership Coach