Writer’s Corner



–Sandra Kischuk [sandra_writer@verizon.net]

Having a “bad boss” really can make you ill . . . as can having people in your personal life who discredit your work and undermine you emotionally.

“Bad bosses” (and negative people, in general) seldom change their ways. In the case of bosses, if their habitual misbehavior is pointed out, there is a greater likelihood that you will be introduced to the door than they will see how their actions damage those working under them. If you try to avoid them and their toxicity, they get paranoid and seek you out.

Most of their toxic behavior has to do with control . . . of you . . . and of the situation. Often, when people distrust and attempt to control you, it is because they distrust themselves and have very poor self control. They see their oppressive behavior as “doing the best they can to get you to do what you are supposed to” or “looking out for your best interests.” But they are oblivious to tending to the “weeds” in their own gardens. My best advice . . . find a new boss . . . but don’t let the boss know you are looking.

Those who harm you in your personal life may only be trying to fulfill their own needs or respond to their own insecurities. Sometimes acknowledging them with a gentle reminder brings them back on track. “Yes, I understand and respect how you feel . . . even though I have a different take on it. I hope you can understand and respect our differences.” Bang! You’ve raised the bar and told them you respect their position . . . requesting the same in return. If you are to be equals, then it is reasonable to expect reciprocal behavior. If the person continues to try to convince you that you are wrong and they are right, you are either truly choosing a life-endangering path or they are not respecting who you are. If you are not headed toward destruction, then the person has told you his/her choice—to not respect you. Who needs friends like that?

The message they are sending is that they are better than you, wiser than you. These people will like you as long as you go along with them and defer to their greater wisdom. (And, if you go along with them, the likelihood is that, long term, they will not respect you—after all, their idea was better than yours; ergo, they are superior to you.) When you finally decide that some of what they have been telling you is really a bunch of hooey (garbage), you have a choice—you can ignore what they say, you can confront them,  or you can decrease contact.

Your relationship may disintegrate  . . . but how close was a relationship based on disrespect, where the focus was on differences rather than what you shared in common?

I have friends with opinions the polar opposite of mine. I don’t feel the need to change them . . . they are who they are. If they persist in trying to discuss the unresolved issue of our differences, I assure them that I haven’t changed and don’t intend to change who I am. (I am not asking them to change.) One of my friends with whom I had differences spent months, trying to convince me that she was right and I was wrong. The discussions were stressful. I liked the person, but not the haranguing behavior.

I finally told her I respected her position and enjoyed her company, but rather than focusing on our differences, I preferred we talk about what we had in common. When we did that, our conversations became mutually rewarding. I now look forward to talking with her instead of dreading how I’m going to respond to the next attack without offending her. If we had not resolved this in this way, I’m sure we would have drifted apart.

Truly respecting others’ positions while maintaining our own self respect . . . understanding that we each have differences . . . and the differences do not make one person right and the other wrong . . . requires seeing thing as not “black” or “white,” but in shades of gray. For some people this may be difficult. Recent studies suggest that these “black/white absolutism” and “flexible shades of gray” orientations are genetic . . . but it could also be the result of upbringing—back to that old nature vs. nurture argument about why we are who we are.

Yet, what do people fight over?

We don’t fight over what we have in common (except, when, like hungry dogs when there’s only one bone). We fight over our differences . . . over trying to be right, and getting the other person to admit they are wrong . . . that we are better, and they are less so . . . that we deserve more, and they, less (oops, sounds like the dogs!). People who are confident in who they are don’t have to try to prove themselves through lengthy argument. Only those on “shaky ground” feel the need to convert others . . . because they need others’ approval and agreement as a reassurance.

Over the centuries, labeling other cultural groups as “less human” has resulted in atrocities . . . as it still does today. We haven’t learned much. We justify mistreatment of others by labeling them as different from us and less human than we are. Psychologists label those who don’t like other people as sociopaths . . . but the sociopathic mindset been the accepted norm for millennia. Scary.

As writers, we can “go along with the crowd,” writing for popular approval, and feeling frustrated and unhappy when we don’t get it. Or we can use our gift to explore and present new ideas . . . producing insights (logical understanding) and the “aha!” (emotional response) that change lives.

Marketing professionals and good writers know: People are seldom won over by logical argument. You win them when you touch their hearts.