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Growing Past the Tough-Guy Attitude

Dan Bobinski
March 17, 2005 -- By Dan Bobinski 

Without going into a psychological background as to why, some people are never taught how to make good choices.  Either they are directed to make choices that others want them to make, or they are forced to make instinctive “survival” choices in the face of weak or absent significant relationships.
Mindsets develop that follow such people into the workforce.  If choices are made for them, they may become timid followers. If they’ve been left to fend for themselves, they may become workplace bullies. It’s this latter group that I want to address.
Workplace bullies have usually failed to learn productive interaction skills with co-workers. Their instinctive choices are either aggressive or passive aggressive behavior.  Subsequently, a frequent mindset is “if someone hits me, I’ll hit them back just as hard – if not harder.”  Another phrase along that line is “I don’t get mad – I get even.”
These attitudes are sad, shortsighted, and unfortunately, common.
My response to these mindsets?  The Neanderthal age passed by a long time ago, and we have better, more effective choices available to us now.  Hundreds if not thousands of books have been penned over the past several decades with at least as many tips on how to do interpersonal skills better than with a “get even” mindset.  The maturing process means realizing that we do have better choices. 
Yet in the myriad workshops I conduct, inevitably I find people stuck in these win/lose mindsets.  And I do mean stuck. They’re addicted. It’s their sense of security. “Get even” thinking is their comfort zone, and they squirm when challenged to think otherwise.  They’ll even snipe at coworkers who suggest they take a different approach. 
The sad part is that better choices would bring them the bottom-line results that deep down they really want.  The truth, however, is that they’re terrified. If they try something new, they will lose the only sense of control they’ve ever had.
For this reason, we can’t get mad at these people. (Frustrated, yes. Mad, no.) But we can try to show them the benefits of changing.
To this point, I offer factual research that learning how to interact better with others results in a better bottom line. Take, for example, research offered by the Center for Creative Leadership.  They found that the primary cause of executives failing in their positions was low levels of “emotional competence.”  Another study conducted by Walter Clarke and Associates found a direct correlation between how well executives handled their emotions and how much their coworkers preferred to deal with them.
The Hay/McBer Research and Innovation Group found that sales reps hired based on high levels of emotional intelligence (EQ) were 90% more likely to finish their training than sales reps hired based on other criteria.  And high EQ sales people are likely to outsell their lower EQ counterparts by a significant margin.
Dozens of similar examples exist, but the core principle on the table is that one’s level of success has a strong correlation to one’s level of competence in the emotional realms.  Therefore, increasing one’s emotional intelligence is likely to have a great impact on one’s career.
Granted, learning such skills in front of others can be unnerving, especially if the realm of emotions is “new” territory.  For these folks I suggest a one-on-one setting with a coach or confidant. Some companies even offer online assistance using video clips to illustrate how different ways people interact will bring different results.
The bottom line is that EQ affects the bottom line.  So if win/lose people want to be more effective, they need to grow past the tough guy attitude and learn good emotional intelligence skills. And I mean learn them as in do them – not just learn them as in head knowledge. Head knowledge of such things brings only arrogance. Doing them actually bring results.    

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© 2005 Dan Bobinski / Leadership Development, Inc. You may freely forward this information on condition that you send the text as an integral whole along with complete information about its author, date, and source.
Dan Bobinski is a certified behavioral analyst, the President and CEO of Leadership Development, Inc., and the co-author of Living Toad Free: Overcoming Resistance to Motivation. He can be reached at (208) 375-7606 or by Email at dan@leadershipanswers.
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