Among the science fiction, history, and philosophy stuff on my shelves, there are also a lot of self-improvement books. One thing several of these books state is that your brain operates based on whatever input you give it. It’s a neutral processing machine, to some extent, in that if you feed it positive thoughts, it will operate under those inputs as operating assumptions; likewise with negative thoughts. At the risk of being Pollyanna-ish or wearing what the lady friend calls my rose-colored bifocals, I will share some of the positive self-talk I use on the job on those days when things aren’t going very well.
“I’m losing my mind here!” The biggest thing you need to tell yourself when things are hectic in the workplace is that “I can handle this.” You’ve been in high-pressure situations, and you’ve managed to get through them. Focusing on the work rather than the deadline for the work also helps. Or, if you find that, despite your best efforts, you’re not going to make the deadline, let someone know, ask for help. Yes, you might be the only writer in your particular company or group, but you have the ability to take action on your own behalf. If there are too many assignments, ask for clarification of your priorities so you aren’t trying to do ten things at once.
“I can’t do this! I’m a terrible writer!” is an occasional piece of writerly self-talk I hear, and it’s one that’s easily countered with, “I can do this! I’m a good/great/spectacular writer!” No, really. This one is that simple. Saying it aloud five or ten times could help. If you’re stuck on content, again, remember that every first draft is going to need improvement, so just get something down on paper. And, as I noted last Thursday, ask some questions to get some answers that allow you to move forward.
Layoffs/job security issues
“This is awful!” Some decisions or situations are beyond your control. Job layoffs are definitely one of those. Perhaps they will occur based on merit, in which case the best thing you can do is keep doing a good job. Another good thing is to avoid joining in the water-cooler discussions that center on and worry about the situation. Again, if you have an honest fear of being let go, start taking constructive action on your own behalf by checking want ads and talking to your network in an upbeat fashion about the need to change jobs/careers. You might be one of those who fears keeping your job and being resented by your coworkers. Again, remind yourself that this is beyond your control and you need to make the best of whatever comes–otherwise, keep doing your job.
Dealing with difficult people
“My manager hates me!” Having close coworkers who behave unpleasantly toward you is never fun. However, as one who has occasionally let his imagination run away with him, it’s important to recognize that some behaviors you’re observing might not be meant as rude, mean, etc. Unless someone comes right out and insults you or says they don’t like you, you have to give people the benefit of the doubt. And, again, the guy with the overactive emotional imagination here can tell you that it is very easy to let your perceptions of others–based on real data or not–can color your interactions with them whether you intend to or not.
This is another opportunity to take action on your own behalf, have a conversation with someone whom you think is actively disliking you, and finding out the truth of things. You might find out that the person who’s been brusque of late is angry with someone else. Or they’ve got personal problems at home. Or, indeed, they do dislike you, but it’s because you remind him or her of someone else they don’t like.
Another approach you can take is simply to focus on the tasks at hand rather than the personalities of the people surrounding the tasks. While many people make their friendships in the workplace, it is not required. That might be a great opportunity to deepen your friendships outside of work.
And then again, you could just choose to be nice to everyone regardless of how they treat you.
How you talk to yourself about the situations around you has a great impact on how the world will look to you and how people respond to you. If they see you as a positive person, they’re more likely to like or respect you than if you’re down on yourself or the world most of the time. So watch what you say to yourself: if you make the assumption that situations will turn out badly, you might find a way to make that happen–consciously or unconsciously. If you believe things will work out for the best, you might occasionally be wrong, but you are likely to be more content with what happens, regardless of the outcome. Food for thought.