Regret being Wishy-Washy?

In the general public, a good (yes, they are good) 35% or more of us are peace-keepers, motivated to create calm. Looking out for the interest of others, we would rather avoid conflict than enter an anxious discussion, which leads us down a slippery slope.

Let me explain why this is a problem: peace-keepers are best equipped, in our natural state, to step in and lead, peacefully.

Unfortunately, we tend to either seek comfort (which in the long run isn’t at all comfortable) by saying nothing or we rush in and become wishy-washy in our message because we are letting our emotions overtake us.

If you’ve experienced this, and I certainly have, take heart. You have the abilities to get past this.

Peacekeepers are thinkers. As such when at their best, they employ pause, allow thoughts to come to mind, then share them with a steady pace in a thoughtful way. In these times they aren’t focused on themselves but on their listeners. They relate, help them save face and engage.

When challenged (some folks think all questions are challenges), peacekeepers who operate with direct messages vs. being wishy-washy are able to do so because they watch their listener. They relate to what it appears the listener is feeling, they pause to consider what is important to them and then share a response – even a difficult one – with that priority in mind.

For example:

Co-worker (CW) comes to peace-keeper (PK) with a complaint regarding another co-worker (ACW).

CW: I know I shouldn’t say this, but I just can’t stand it. ACW is getting on my nerves because ACW won’t pick up when I call.

PK: (feeling uncomfortable)

CW: I left 4 messages today, saying it’s urgent and I know ACW is avoiding me.

PK: Oh, ACW is probably busy. 

CW: But I can’t complete this project until I hear from ACW!

In the above exchange, CW gets more and more frustrated while PK retreats into a non-committal exchange. Instead of de-escalating the emotion, PK does nothing as a peace-keeper and it mounts, making PK even more uncomfortable. PK can only focus on PK’s discomfort, which doesn’t bring a useful exchange into the conversation.

Consider this scenario with PK acting as a peacekeeper, in a way that creates relief for both people.

CW: I know I shouldn’t say this, but I just can’t stand it. ACW is getting on my nerves because ACW won’t pick up when I call.

PK: calmly – Wow, you sound irritated – why don’t you sit down? 

CW sits while PK focuses on CW with compassion and keeps discomfort at bay.

CW senses compassion and shifts from irritation to neutrality: I left 4 messages today, saying it’s urgent and I know ACW is avoiding me.

PK: I know you need to get through to ACW. (short pause to consider CW’s need: fast pace) CW, sometimes when we focus on other things, people get back to us faster. You know, like when you’ve been waiting awhile for your order in a restaurant, get up to use the restroom and then you return to see your meal awaiting you? 

CW: I guess you’re right. 

PK: You usually have so many things you’re working on and I bet you could shift to another priority for awhile.

CW: You just gave me an idea. I have to complete something else for my section chief today. Maybe I’ll work on that. Thanks!

In the second scenario, PK was able to stay focused and un-rattled because of useful pausing while focusing not on PK’s needs but the needs of CW. PK was acting as a true peacekeeper!

Instead of regretting the exchange, PK can feel accomplished, increasing PK’s interest in handling other anxious exchanges.

In summary, the peacekeeper can shift from feeling regret to peace of mind when handling moments of anxiety by

  • pausing to observe others present
  • de-escalating tension by naming what you observe
  • focusing on what’s important to those present
  • offering a question for more information or an experience tied to the overall importance of listener

We peace-keepers have much to offer during moments of stress. When we focus on how uncomfortable it feels, we second-guess ourselves, throwing ourselves into wishy-washy behaviors, and regretting our response. But when we observe and connect with those with us, we create peace of mind, regretting nothing while thankful for the opportunity!

Share Button
On January 23rd, 2015, posted in: anxiety, behavior, communication, out of the comfort zone, pace, purpose by