Stuck moment: You love when things run smoothly — some say you’re a master at it — and right now it’s the opposite of that. As far as you can tell, nothing has changed. Still, you’ve started over…several times. Checked and rechecked. Even referred to the manual. Why. Won’t. This. Work!
Such is the frustration of Perplexed Planners. So full of determination to make it work that they can only see what is, not what could be. And that’s a major handicap when it comes to solving a problem.
We’ve all been there from time to time, but not always in the same way. There are at least three shades of Perplexed Planners. To find out your tendency, take our mini-quiz below. We’ll follow up next week with tips for each type of Planner.
Think of a time when a tactic that’s always served you well stopped working. It might be how you communicate with someone. How you complete a work project. Maybe it’s your method for tracking your budget. What did you Feel, Think, and Do at that time? Pick one answer from each group. This works best when you answer quickly, following your gut instinct.
What did you Feel when you were perplexed?
B. Like a failure.
C. Afraid you’d be found out.
What did you Think when you were perplexed?
A. I wish this came with instructions.
B. Ugh. Do I have to learn something new now?
C. This will take me forever to fix.
What did you Do when you were perplexed?
A. Declared it broken and stop trying.
B. Nothing. I didn’t want to mess things up more.
C. Stayed quiet about it as long as I could.
If you chose mostly A answers, read about By-the-Book Planners, below. Mostly B’s, you’re likely a Perfect Planner. C’s are Peerless Planners. If you had a mix of letters, you’re a hybrid, which means you’ll find parts of yourself in all three types.
A. By-the-Book Planner. There’s a reason rules are made, and the primary one is to be followed. There’s comfort in knowing what to do and what to expect — because it usually works for you. Why reinvent every time when you can sail smoothly ahead instead? But when the waters get choppy, you may find you’re not equipped to improvise.
You need to believe in your creative abilities. Perplexed Planners get stuck by the clutter, and in your case, it’s the rules that are clogging up your brain. It’s hard to think creatively when you’re clinging to one right way. Embrace the idea that there’s more than one answer to any given problem.
B. Perfect Planner. Details are your friend. You coax and cajole them into shape like few can — and that’s impressive. Whether it’s an annual report or a dinner for 12, everyone knows you’ll make it just so. That’s why a change of plans can be so disruptive. You’re not sure how to adapt and still keep the system in shape.
You need to believe in the possibilities of failure. When plans go askew, your mind heads to that scary place where everything goes wrong. Your thoughts swim with possible errors and the unknown. And you don’t want to take a chance on making any of it come true. But if you don’t try, things aren’t going to get better.
C. Peerless Planner. You’re known for being head and shoulders above the crowd. It’s a point of pride, and you’ve definitely earned it. But this can make the words, “I don’t know,” difficult to utter. You might lose your status as the person with all the answers. And that leaves you stuck pretending.
You need to believe that everyone needs help. Whether or not you feel the confidence of a virtuoso, it’s important that others see you as one. Faced with a kink in the system, your certainty may plummet. And the worst part is imagining what others may think of you. Instead, consider this: The mark of a true expert is knowing that you don’t know everything.
PRINTABLE TIP CARD #22: What kind of Perplexed Planner are you?
For the organized among us, this question is a nonstarter. For the rest, we bet lots of reasons come to mind, like: I don’t want to stifle creativity. It will make an easy project harder. Nobody pays attention to the plan anyway. Underneath those reasons lurk the real reasons: What if my plan doesn’t work? I don’t think that way. Planning is hard.
To those real reasons we say: A plan helps you stay on track, and helps you know when you’re not. It doesn’t have to be complicated or follow someone else’s overthought format. And it should never be carved in stone.
You can make a real plan, with dates and everything, in about five minutes using Unstuck’s “Get Your Game On” tool. If you’re on your iPad, click to go directly to the tool. Or download the free Unstuck iPad app here.
Oh dear, it’s 7 am already? The urge to hit the snooze button can be automatic. But consider the wear and tear on your brain that results from being jerked awake, restarting the sleep cycle from stage 1 (the worst time to be woken up, science says) — only to be jerked awake again five minutes later. It’s like a fire drill going off over and over in the delicate inner workings of your system…
Research shows that using your alarm this way makes the transition from sleep mode to wake mode harder. It might take as long as two hours for your brain to go from zombie to fully alert, and you won’t feel sharp or well-rested.
The best advice? Wake to natural light, and be true to the rhythms of your own body (Unstuck has a printable worksheet to help you do this). But, failing that, just stop hitting snooze. Your brain will thank you.
Stuck moment: I’m kind of fed up. My boss takes the credit for my ideas. My coworker goes on and on about her boyfriend drama. My friend never returns anything she borrows… I want to say something, but I just can’t!
* * *
When people behave in ways that bother us — a callous comment, an interruption, a self-appointed license to take what’s ours without giving back — why do so many of us find it easier just to let it go? We make excuses for the other person. Or we pretend to shrug it off, though the behavior continues to niggle us, deep in our thoughts. Worse, we start avoiding the other person. Complaining behind her back, resenting her. But we never speak up.
Those negative feelings don’t go away because we suppress them. Sometimes they poison a once-wonderful relationship. Or, our mind starts to run on a victim script: I’m always putting up with other people’s bad behavior. People are so inconsiderate. I follow the rules, why don’t they?
Here’s the thing: When we’re silent, we can become resentful, and then we don’t live the best life we possibly could. We make our voices tinier, our expectations smaller. And, in those gaps, insecurity sprouts. Our reluctant manner tells others that we care less about our needs and feelings than we actually do.
In short, we’re cheating ourselves.
Yes, confrontation can be scary, but let’s imagine we do speak up. Each time, it enhances our options, our confidence, our comfort in the world. It also demonstrates what we value and how we want to be treated.
In short, we open up our possibilities.
Given the choice of shrinking or expanding your life, logic points to the latter. But our emotions might lean toward the former. (Trust us, we know the feeling!) That’s why we put together this guide, to show us all how confrontation can lead to far better things than a black-eye.
Let’s get started.
WHEN TO CONFRONT AND HOW
“I was the queen of wimps,” says Barbara Pachter, a business communications expert with more than 18 years of experience. “But, when we understand the consequences to our choices — and this particular choice is not speaking up — it moves people to have the courage to try new behavior. When I realized that, I changed my day-to-day approach. And that eliminated a lot of the problems.”
For the rest of us, Pachter wrote the book The Power of Positive Confrontation (a new edition will be released in July) with strategies that work for everyone. The key to handling any confrontation — whether work- or home-related — Pachter says, is to use her WAC’em™ dialogue, which consists of three essential parts:
the What = a specific description of the behavior that bothers you
the Ask = a request to change it
the Check-in = a question to make sure you’ve been heard and understood.
“The first part is about not labeling the other person’s behavior,” she says. “We’re so quick to label each other as jerks, and that can lead to aggression. But, when you choose to confront someone and get your words together in this way — what comes to your mind is going to be polite, calm, direct, and non-accusatory. You know what’s bothering you, you know the other person’s point of view, you know what you want. And you ask for it.”
She adds, “Then you have to turn it over, get the other person’s response. Just because you’re asking for something doesn’t mean you’re going to get it.”
Our printable practice sheet, The Reluctant Person’s Confrontation Playbook, gives examples of how to apply this formula in four common conflict situations, and also what to do when the other person’s response is negative.
The situations include:
The Takers: You’re giving and they’re taking.
Your friend doesn’t pay you back for movie night. Your sister calls you daily to complain your ear off. This is the second time you cooked dinner for your roommate and she hasn’t helped clean up. Your manager gives you all the work and takes all the credit…
The Rule-breakers: They think they’re above the law.
Your coworker is consistently late with deadlines. The girl you’re seeing texts 20 minutes before dinner to say that she can’t make it. Someone jams the printer and doesn’t fix it. He doesn’t remember your anniversary…
The Self-involved: They’re stuck on Planet Clueless.
Your mother insists on a Hawaiian family vacation, even though you can’t afford it. No one’s vegan but she’s making a tofurkey for the “fun” of it. Your friend’s Facebook post about your ex’s fancy holiday shindig makes you feel bad. Your sister knows that you won’t be in town that week, but guess when she schedules the baby shower? It’s your meeting, but he takes it over…
The Insulters: They think rudeness is just being real.
That guy thinks dumb blonde jokes are really funny. She calls you an idiot because you didn’t know how to work the coffee machine. Your dad puts you down at every family gathering. Your friend says you’re too fat to wear a bathing suit. Every time she gets mad, she swears at you…
WHEN TO LET IT GO
Sometimes — not all the time — it’s best not to confront. When you’re faced with any of these four scenarios, Pachter says to walk away:
• The other person is out-of-control (angry, manic, tearful, etc), or at risk of becoming so.
• The other person’s offensive behavior is simply out-of-character. It’s okay to dial up your empathy — everyone has off-days — and let it go.
• You’re in a bad mood. Even the littlest thing (an empty milk carton, a coworker correcting your grammar) feels like a huge deal. Save your words for when you’re more in control.
• This is one of those friendships where you give a little, you take a little. He puts up with your foibles, and you shrug it off when he invites himself over and drinks all your beer.
But in other situations where you’re bothered and beleaguered, speaking up is often the best way to solve the problem.
So let’s practice.
DOWNLOAD THIS: The Reluctant Person’s Confrontation Playbook
Barbara Pachter is president of Pachter & Associates. She is an internationally renowned business etiquette and communications speaker, coach, and author who has delivered more than 2,100 seminars throughout the world. Pachter is the author of 10 books, including The Power of Positive Confrontation. Her client list boasts many of today’s most notable organizations, including Bayer, Campbell Soup, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Chrysler, Cleveland Clinic, Microsoft, Moody’s, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Princeton University and Wawa. Pachter is also on the adjunct faculty in the School of Business at Rutgers University.
For more information, visit pachter.com.
Sometimes we block ourselves by unknowingly adding constraints to a problem we want to solve. To give yourself more solution-finding elbow room, write out what your assumptions are about the problem at hand and the desired solution. Then step back and look for the biases and beliefs that may not apply. (It may help to ask someone else to review your assumptions as well.)
Thanks to Jessica Tillyer of SYPartners for this tip.