Dealing With Difficult People At Work: How To Put Meditation Into Action
I recently faced a stressful situation in the workplace. I work part-time as a speech pathologist in a rehabilitation setting. One of my co-workers (we’ll call her Hilda), had recently given my documentation audit a poor review. Documentation is essential to the job, and I must write excellent reports for every patient.
Since I work part-time, I do not often interact with Hilda, but I’ve always been cautious of her. Hilda is not exactly the friendliest of co-workers. And when I first started working with her she was visibly irritated by the few questions about the facility I had asked her as a newcomer, even rolling her eyes when I had asked which nurse was assigned to a particular unit on my second day of the job.
I had received the news of this poor review from my supervisor via e-mail. My supervisor had reassured me that the review could be remedied. My supervisor had even corrected a few errors that Hilda had made while auditing my documentation, which improved my review slightly. It felt like Hilda had been aiming for the lowest scores possible with very little leniency, so much so that she had made several errors with my review. Despite the reassurance from my supervisor, my body immediately reacted with anger. I felt my cheeks turn red and hot, my stomach had butterflies, and I felt my heart rate quicken. My anger almost felt like a fight or flight response to the stressful situation of receiving a poor review of my hard work.
I put 100% into everything I do, whether it be work, family, marriage, friendship, etc., so a poor review of a vital aspect of my job hit me hard.
Allowing the Muddy Water to Clear
I was shaken. I was so upset about my poor review that for a few moments, I could only think of my anger. My baby was napping and my toddler was nearby coloring. I quickly realized I needed to calm down so I could care for my little girls properly the rest of the day. This was my problem, not theirs. So I did what I know helps me during times of stress (and even on ordinary days). I sat on my cushion and meditated as my daughter colored a picture of a dinosaur.
I meditated on my anger first. I really looked at it. When I looked deeply into my anger, I saw fear and worry hiding underneath. Both the fear of losing my job and the worry that I was inadequate were being masked by the red-hot anger. I allowed the muddy water in my mind to clear, as the anger, fear, and worries settled down. I found a moment of clarity, which felt wonderful. (mind you, my anger had not completely dissolved, but I could work with it now.)
Dealing with Difficult People at Work
Meditating on my anger had given me insight and clarity. Since anger no longer clouded my thoughts (even though I still “felt” angry), I was able to create a game plan to set up a phone meeting with my supervisor to discuss how to improve my documentation. I also wanted my supervisor to know how seriously I take all aspects of my job. I was not allowing anger to control my actions. I could finally see the anger for what it is, an emotion that was “messing with me.” I was not the anger. I am never the anger. The anger is a fleeting emotion, a red ball of fire that eventually dies, like anything else. However, at the time, anger was still lurking in the pit of my stomach. When I pictured Hilda in my mind furiously typing out my documentation audit with a knowing grin on her face, I felt myself seething again.
Meditation in Action: Loving-Kindness Meditation
I knew my work on the cushion was incomplete. I had worked with my anger, but there was more lurking under the surface. I chose to do loving-kindness meditation. First, I sent well wishes to myself. I needed them. I was being pretty hard on myself and scolding myself for not having perfect documentation skills. Then I jumped right to sending loving-kindness to a difficult person. In this case, it was Hilda. I pictured her in my mind. I did all I could to view her objectively. I thought of her family difficulties and her recent personal problems. I worked very hard at feeling compassion for her. I also worked very hard at remembering that Hilda wishes to be happy, safe, and well.
Hilda is not a villain out to get me. She is a human being who wishes to be happy. She is someone’s daughter. When I thought of Hilda in this way, it was a lot more challenging to feel so much anger. By offering loving-kindness, I do not condone Hilda’s actions. I don’t even have to like her. But loving-kindness provided freedom from my anger and filled me with compassion for a fellow human being.
Inspired by Obstacles & Challenges
Every obstacle, every challenge is a lesson. Rather than holding on to my anger, I examined it. I looked at it deeply and saw the anger for what it was. It’s not easy, but it helped tremendously once I was willing to meditate and do the work. Loving-kindness meditation is not a walk in the park, either. It’s tough to offer well wishes and warmth to a difficult person in your life. But once you get over the hurdle, you see the person as they are: flawed, yes (we all are), but seeking happiness.
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