In one workshop I facilitated, somebody asked me how to know which situations need to be addressed at work and which need to be let go.
It’s a question that a I find a lot of people struggle with. Should I say something? Am I overreacting? Why am I so hung up on this when it doesn’t seem to be bothering anyone else?
Part of the challenge in figuring out what to address and what to let go is that not everyone will be bothered by the same thing or have concerns about the same issues.
When there’s a sense that many people on the team take issue with something that’s happened, it becomes easier to decide to address it. There’s power and support in knowing that you’re not standing alone with your concern. In knowing that you won’t have to face dissent from everyone around you.
But what about those times when you seem to be the only one who’s frustrated? Is that something that should be brought up for discussion? Or do you simply need to learn to let it go?
If only the question were that simple.
Because it’s not so much a question of “shoulds”. The decision of what to address and what to let go can’t be decided based on whether or not others are bothered by whatever keeps turning in your head.
It’s more about knowing yourself well enough to be able to recognize the signs that someone has violated your boundaries.
If you keep coming back to thinking about the same situation again and again… if you find yourself festering in your anger or resentment over what happened… if the situation feels like a heavy weight in your body… these are all signs that you need to look at setting some boundaries.
Here are a few steps to consider when reflecting on whether this situation is one to address or one that you might want to let go.
1. Recognize that your experience of the situation is valid
I’ve seen too many times when people retell stories of situations that have happened in order to get others’ opinions of whether or not their feelings in relation to a situation are justified. It makes for a messy environment to work in.
You may not even notice yourself doing it. But if you’re looking to others for confirmation that you should indeed by upset by something that happened, then stop and recognize that you’re seeking out confirmation that your feelings are justified.
The reality is that your personal experience of the situation is valid, even if it differs from everyone else’s. If you’re ruminating over a situation, it’s an indication that your needs are not being met. Even if no one else is upset about whatever happened or thinks that you should be.
2. Reflect on what is truly within your control
Now that you’ve been able to recognize that your feelings about the situation are valid, it’s time to reflect on whether or not this is a situation where you can actually do something that might change the outcome.
This is a hard one!
But it’s a key step in learning to preserve your emotional energy and how to spend it in ways that are worthwhile.
We sometimes have the illusion that we can control things that we truly can’t. For instance, you may be upset that your internet connection crashed just as you’re about to start a super important meeting. But unless the problem is on your end, there’s absolutely nothing you can do that will bring your internet back faster.
I often see people using energy to try to address issues such as these that are entirely outside of their control. I’ve done it too. It’s simply exhausting.
But these are the situations where addressing it simply doesn’t work. Rather, it eats up our energy and leaves us feeling resentful.
For situations that are outside of our control, the path towards peace is working to learn to let go.
On the flip side of things, we sometimes have the illusion that we have no control over situations where speaking up or setting a boundary can actually influence the outcome, even if not immediately. For instance, if you have a colleague or superior who’s demanding, domineering or demeaning, it can often feel like it’s better to let it go because nothing will ever change when, in fact, changing what we contribute to the exchange can often alter the dynamic.
The key is in learning to distinguish where we truly have control and being able to identify a small step you can take that will lead you in the direction you want to go.
3. Decide how important this is to you
So now you’re left with situations that are within your control to change. The last decision to make in deciding whether to address a situation or let it go is to decide how important of an issue the situation is to you. Again, not in relation to what others think, but rather solely in relation to you.
I’ve had times where I’ve decided to let something go, only to find that the situation kept coming back to mind again and again. My body’s physiological responses kept showing stress signals. This is always a great signal to me that letting go is not the right answer in that situation.
Letting go is NOT about choosing to not address an issue and then festering about it quietly instead. That’s avoidance. Letting go is about deciding that the situation is something you can live with and you then slowly release any emotional attachment you might have to it.
Only you can make the call of what is important to you and what is not.
When that emotional attachment to the situation keeps coming back, there’s a reason for it. It’s because your body is telling you that it’s a situation that needs to be addressed. We just need to learn to trust the signals.
Using this 3 step process each time you’re faced with a difficult situation at work will help you get clarity more quickly on which situations you need to address with others and which you may want to simply let go. From there, you can attempt to address the situation calmly and respectfully, directly with the person or people involved.
If you or your team is struggling with addressing difficult situations effectively, reach out and book a complimentary discovery call and together, we’ll identify some of the underlying factors that are contributing to these challenges.
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