When The Question "How Are You Doing?" Turns Out To Be The Best Question Ever?Dec 27, 2020
As with many other people, I am going through a challenging divorce right now. The chess game involves a six-year-old which adds a complexity and challenges I did not foresee, such as not reacting emotionally to a situation. Preparation, learning what my blind spots are and taking back control have made me stronger today than ever before. If divorcing is something we have in common, I hope I can contribute to your transformation.
2015: Things are messy
We turn back time. It’s 2015 and my family is in crisis. My spouse and I have been together for five years and his status has become his priority. His window of tolerance for me and my daughter is lower than ever. His anger and strong temper affect our relationship, my quality of life, and the well-being of our 1-year-old daughter. It is like Anna from the Frost movie. When he enters a room, you know if he is happy or angry. It’s bad and I avoid him because I fear being verbally attacked, yet again. On my way to work, I often drive to my parents’ house for a cry out. My family life is unbearable.
Never accept aggressive management
No one at work knows about my situation. My mum asks “Why don’t you tell you line manager?”. I don’t trust him. My work relationships are superficial. The only focus is on performance and so, I keep my mask on. Obviously, I am emotionally affected at home and also at work. One day my project manager shows his dissatisfaction. I did not perform as expected. What I hear is: “You are not good enough”. I break into tears and afterwards report the situation to my line manager.
My line manager has a piece of advice which makes me feel worthless; “Camilla, you need to accept managers in our company express aggressive management styles. Work with a psychologist to learn how to deal with it.” I am choked. Never before have any of my clients, including those from BP, Shell, or IBM, told me that my views on good collaboration and leadership were wrong. But here I was, feeling forced to sign up for therapy.
Reflecting on the situation that evening, it was like my heart stopped beating for a while. Then I realised how wrong it was for my line manager to ‘coach the problem’ and not the person. Not a single time does my line manager ask the power question: “How are you doing?”. His focus is only on performance and results, nothing more, nothing less.
It turns out that the suggested ‘therapy’ was the best thing that could have happened to me.
Coaching the person, not the problem
Sitting in the chair at the clinic, my new therapist and I first spoke about the work situation. Then she suddenly asked the magic question “How was I doing at home?”. This is the question I had been looking for. I was silent at first. Then I tapped into my inner intuition and spoke about my situation. I spoke about the tics in my eye and how I feared my spouse. I spoke about how my one-year-old daughter was showing signs of stress. I remember clearly the day I broke into tears when I realised that the tics were triggered by the fear I had of my spouse. And I began to shiver even more when the therapist told me that children gain emotional understanding, capacity for empathy and helping behaviour between the ages of 0 to 3. The frequent expression of negative emotions may lead to dysfunctional emotions later in life. I realised it was time to change. Now.
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