Stuck in a repeating pattern at work?

When you're so frustrated that all you can do is focus on what someone else is doing wrong, it's a sign that you need to step back and look at it differently.

Go to the profile of Vanessa Anstee
Jul 22, 2014
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Many years ago I was told that I would never change someone else's behaviour. I was reliably informed that I only had power over my own behaviour and that if I changed, then a shift would naturally occur in the other person.

I understood it intellectually but applying it was hard.

Relationships at work matter. We spend most of our time there, so we should feel able to express ourselves freely and co-create productively.

But what happens when we get caught in a pattern with others that just keeps repeating?

We think, "If only that person would change, then it would be better." We can only see what's going on with the other person.

Introducing Sarah the boss ...

Sarah's fed up that Lucy (a member of her team) keeps coming to her, updating her on everything and asking questions that really she should be able to answer herself.

Sarah's frustrated because she's spending far too much time trying to help Lucy and it's not achieving anything. She keeps directing her but it's not working. Lucy just keeps bouncing back like a puppy and asking more questions.

As far as Sarah's concerned, the problem is Lucy.

But what if there's another perspective?

Sarah's locked into a pattern of behaviour that keeps creating the same result. She wants Lucy to change but she needs to look at her role in the dance. Perhaps there's a part of Sarah that likes to be in control?

If Sarah was to shift her behaviour, stop instructing Lucy and start asking questions that guided Lucy to her own solutions, she would start to shift the pattern. The whole time she's in the pattern, it's invisible to her. She has to let go of the dance, step back and see her part in it before she can change it.

If you're stuck in a repeating pattern and blaming someone else, try this ...

  • Step back and get some distance.
  • Decide consciously to be responsible for your part.
  • Take a piece of paper and write down your action and their response in the dance you both play. Ask yourself, "When I do this, what does the other person do?"
    Get to the heart of the pattern by only using one verb to describe it
    e.g. I control -----> (s)he questions, or I talk ---------> (s)he resists.
  • Ask yourself, "What else can I do that will create a different response?" Look for a different verb e.g. ask or listen for the previous examples.
  • Practice choosing the new response and applying it.

Go to the profile of Vanessa Anstee

Vanessa Anstee

Work with Courage, -

I'm inspired by who you can be without apology and I want to help you release your fullest expression. My life turned around when I was given feedback on a leadership programme that I had an apologetic energy. I felt a mixture of anger and sadness because it was exactly how I was living and who I was being. I'd been giving my power away and playing small in a conditioned way of living. I took my 20+years corporate experience in OD, HR, Learning and Development, embraced my dreams and started living life on my own terms. I learnt to let self empowerment and authenticity trump fitting in, playing nice and fake harmonising. I help clients embrace their inner shine and play their bigger game.
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