I once had a client with a summer intern that “drove her crazy”. The intern was constantly at her door with question after question – how to print things, whom to ask about taking a day off, what she was supposed to wear to a client event, whether she should ask XYZ associate for help on a project, was it a big deal if she was 10 minutes late to work tomorrow?, where is this conference room? etc. Her list of inquiries was never-ending. She was at my client’s door several times a day and my client was fuming.
Every time she heard a knock at her door, she inwardly seethed: I swear to god if this is her again, I am going to lose my freaking mind! Can she not tell that this is irritating and disruptive for me?! Why can’t she just schedule a 30-minute meeting and address all of this at once!? Does she think I have nothing better to do?!
When she was relating this story to me, she was visibly irritated by the whole situation. She was angry at the intern and she repeatedly grumbled She is making me so irritated!
One of the things I am often charged with as a coach is teaching my clients to own their feelings. When we blame another person or the actions of another person for our feelings, we are living in emotional childhood. We are not taking ownership for how we feel. We are giving these other people and circumstances all of the power. We are believing that these other people have the ability to control how we feel. Like children, we are throwing (emotional) tantrums because we aren’t getting our way: these people aren’t acting the way we want them to act. We are allowing their actions toward us to dictate how we show up. We are not taking ownership of our power over ourselves. That is emotional childhood.
The reason my client felt irritated every time the intern darkened her door was because she was thinking thoughts that made her pissed! She was swimming in negative thoughts that created anger – Can’t she see that I’m busy? She was just her 10 minutes ago, why didn’t she ask me this then!? I cannot believe she isn’t getting this! Can’t she tell I’m frustrated?! I’m a partner, why isn’t she bothering associates these questions!?
The first step to addressing this situation was to get my client to recognize the true source of her feelings. The intern was not “making” my client crazy. She was making herself crazy. Her thoughts were making her crazy.
She first had to recognize all of the thoughts fueling her anger and frustrations. Once she recognized those patterns, she was able to evaluate whether those thoughts were serving her in the relationship. Clearly, showing up angry and frustrated and fuming about the intern all day long was not helping anyone and it wasn’t changing the situation!
Furthermore, it was not helping her demonstrate leadership. She was not acting like the leader and partner she wanted to be for that young law student. She was not showing up authentically and that was fueling her frustration.
YOU are the only human capable of making yourself crazy.
It’s a hard pill to swallow but once we can recognize that we are the source of our consternation through our thoughts, we can take a clearer look at how we are truly showing up in our lives. In this case, my client was not showing up how she wanted to; she wanted to be a good leader and example but she was letting her anger sidetrack her.
Through working with my client, we were able to set aside the anger and emotional blame and imagine how she could show up as the best version of herself. She took ownership of her emotions and thoughts and decided to create a different result. She shifted her thinking to I can use this as an opportunity to mentor this intern. I can set her up for future success by discussing some professional boundaries with her and helping her see a better way of interacting with her partners and supervisors.
My client was able to access positive mentorship experiences from her past and approach the situation with empathy and compassion and the willingness to support this intern on her professional path. All of this was possible because she was able to stop blaming the intern for her anger and frustration and identify the true cause – herself and her thoughts.
She evolved from emotional childhood and took ownership of how she wanted to show up and how she wanted to feel about the relationship. When her anger and frustration were quashed, she was in a much better space to address the situation in a professional and loving manner. She showed up as the leader she truly envisioned for herself to be.
The next time you catch yourself claiming that XYZ is “making you crazy/angry/frustrated/want to jump out of a tall building” ask yourself how that is even possible. If we had the ability to create emotions in others around us, how different this world would be!
I am an executive coach for successful female attorneys. I help high-performing professional women take their careers and their relationships to the next level.
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