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Read more about Liz Reyer, President of RCC.

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The coach replies to her doubters

Time for another readers' response column, but with a twist. Let me summarize recent feedback in a question.

Dear Liz: It seems as if you're not living in the real world. The world is full of discrimination, bad bosses and unhappy workplaces. It's a jungle out there. You make it sound as if you can just follow a few easy steps and all will be well. Get real!

Liz replies:
Thanks for challenging me on this; it's valuable to examine my own assumptions. Your perspective seems to be widespread and supported by many bad experiences. I've had some myself. Yet, it's not the only way to look at the world.

When you think about the workplace -- or life, for that matter -- what do you control? Not what your boss or your spouse does. Not what politicians do. Certainly not the effects of the global economy. There's only one thing that you can control: your reaction to the people and events in your life.

"Pay attention to your responses and choose responses that serve you." It sounds simple enough. But while it can be difficult to accomplish, it's well worth the effort. Ever been caught in traffic? For many, it's a recipe for frustration that can lead to anger, even violence. And what do these reactions accomplish? Alternatively, one can look inward, acknowledge any underlying anger, then relax a bit. Which reaction do you choose?

This plays out in other settings, whether you're an older worker searching for a job or are working for a difficult boss. Of course, discrimination and bullying are deplorable, and as a society we should be committed to eradicating these problems. The question remains, what do you personally control; what actions will you choose?

It comes down to taking responsibility. Situations aren't black and white, and each of us influences the events in our lives. It can be comforting to cast yourself as a victim in a dysfunctional environment, but it won't help you move forward. It's much more productive to take ownership of your role in a problem and put your energy into creating solutions.

What about how we treat others? Good things happen when we interact with kindness and respect. Perhaps you've been surprised when someone has been receptive when you've expected hostility. When your point of view has been heard. When someone has spontaneously helped you. If you look for opportunities like these, you'll defuse tense situations and create a positive environment.

I've seen great results when people expect the best. When you opt for a positive frame of reference, you're better able to manage challenges. This isn't to say that you won't have to deal with conflict, resource issues or office politics. You may need to change jobs. That's part of life. However, when your actions reflect a positive stance, others will be more apt to respond in kind. You'll free up a lot of energy.

The bottom line: My experience -- and that of my clients -- shows me that focusing on your inner resources and cultivating a positive perspective results in improved outcomes, both for business and personally.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted May 31, 2009
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