From childhood, I kept my anger to myself. My mother said she could always tell when I was angry or upset by the way I played the piano. I considered myself a person who rarely got angry. When I did get angry I kept it inside.
Until, one day, my ex-husband, a psychology major in college, decided I needed to be more vocal. He backed me into a corner and physically restrained me until I went into a full-on rage. I don’t believe I’ve ever come across that “change method” in any of my psych books. I felt trapped and tortured.
It worked. I became more vocal. But anger often accompanied the verbalization. I always stated that I had a “long fuse” before getting angry. True because I continued stuffing my anger inside until it came bursting out with little restraint.
The Freelance Arena
Last year I began working freelance jobs. I had recovered from several major surgeries and wanted to become productive again. After years of office management and computer programming, my confidence level was high.
I didn’t count on not being able to see the person who had hired me as a freelancer. Check out my article “How To Communicate Better When Working Freelance.” The boss knew exactly what he wanted to be done and how he wanted it done. Unfortunately, he often spoke in “Male-ese,” you know, the language that only men know. Often I thought I understood only to discover I didn’t.
I eventually got so angry it was all I could do to be civil.
I worked for another person, who instead of really communicating, would blame, accuse, and criticize in text messages then wonder why I seemed frustrated on the phone.
Stop Light Strategy
I’ve been writing about the symptoms of ADHD. I realized that I need to use the Stop Light Strategy to become more self-aware and devise a workable plan for handling difficult people and difficult communication situations.
Stop (Red Light):
Take a long, deep breath, verbalize the problem, and how you feel – identify your emotions.
- Faulty Communication resulting in frustration and anger.
- Harsh criticism for not understanding the project correctly.
- I tried emailing, instead of texting or phone call, with very explicit language, only to find out that the emails went unread.
- Unrealistic time and cost expectation.
- What attitude do I want to display?
- I want to display confidence.
- I want to be powerful, to be appreciated and valued for the skills I offer.
- What is the opposite of anger? Powerfulness, confidence, proficient.
Make a Plan (Yellow Light):
Make a plan for how to communicate correctly, using Active Listening and setting appropriate boundaries for clear communication and for the project. Firm boundaries show the employer that you have a backbone. When you respect your own boundaries others will respect them also.
- Know the value you bring to the table.
- Clearly, communicate about all aspects of the project.
- Set clear time expectations. Make sure the employer knows the number of hours available to spend on the job and, if necessary, the time you will be working on his project.
- Clearly, delineate the cost and any contingencies for problems that could arise.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up or ask questions.
- Put all instructions, issues, time, and cost in writing and have it reviewed by the employer before starting to work on the project.
- Make sure you would be happy fulfilling all of the agreements you make.
Translate Attitudes into Actions
Take a few moments. Breathe deeply. Develop a clear picture of what you look like as you confidently, with power, perform the different aspect of the job. Actually, see yourself in the role. Now, visualize your boundary being crossed, you are criticized because something wasn’t performed correctly. Feel yourself getting frustrated headed for anger. Now take several deep, cleansing breaths, and continue visualizing as you work through the scenario, maintaining your focus on calm, confident interaction with the boss. At this point, decide how you would handle the situation if the work wasn’t up to the boss’s expectations, or if the project required more time or a problem with the cost. Decide in advance how you would handle each of these possibilities.
Go (Green Light):
Execute the plan as designed above. If there is a problem, go back and rework the design until your plan allows you to complete the project with no frustration or anger.