It was a quiet afternoon at work and I was merrily typing away on my keyboard when the inevitable happened… someone got into an argument and because we work In the OPEN office concept, it was easily overheard by about 50 people. I was distracted, and uncomfortable as were the people around me. This open concept office space has its merits but its biggest con is that it requires intentional focus on your own work because there are constantly distractions around. And none get your attention as quick as someone raising their voice during the course of an argument.
As a logical software engineer, I can empathize, because diplomacy is not one of my strengths. I rely on truth and clarity to get my point across and sometimes the lack of understanding or attention in my audience leads me to frustration. Reining in that frustration and working through it is difficult but once managed can be rewarding.
On the personal front, as a mom of twins, I have quickly realized that raising my voice and expressing my frustration to my children, only resulted in them getting frustrated quicker and taking it out on each other. It is eerie hearing the same frustrated tone and words coming out of a toddler's mouth minutes after you used it on them. I definitely learned to control my tone and response with them.
Some potential work arounds I have employed which help me at home with the twins AND at work to deal with the daily frustrations are:
WAIT: Time is the greatest of soothers… something that will annoy you tremendously one day will hardly bother you a few days later. I have personally used this technique in dealing with conflict at work and it has always aided me in my responses. If something is leading to conflict, head it off and think about it for a day at least before continuing the conversation. This will help you gather your thoughts logically to allow for a logical non-emotional response.
BODY LANGUAGE: The key to keeping your mind unhindered by petty annoyances is to keep yourself loose and calm no matter what the provocation. If you feel yourself tensing up, calm down and think of other things to distract yourself. If that doesn’t work and you are tensing up, forcefully make yourself unclench your fists, smooth out the frowns. Also be mindful of the sighs and tones you use when working on something or talking to others. Body language affects your mind and your mind affects your body language.
SYMPATHY/EMPATHY: Depending on the situation, thinking from the other person's point of view may aid you in responding more clearly without frustration. This helps with children especially because most often their point of view is completely different that an adult's.
Similarly, the different cultures and experiences of your coworkers around you give them a perspective different from yours. Had a coworker claim credit for work you did? Think of the pressure they might be under and after a day or two to think, approach them without attacking them. Phrases like 'I was feeling uncomfortable or unappreciated because …' or 'I think I am misunderstanding something…' are much better than aggressive ones such as 'Why did you…' or 'You took the work I did…'
Generally, the more you grow in your career or the more you deal with your kids, you will realize aggression and putting people on the spot never works. As for my work environment, I hope people will always take their conversations to offices and conference rooms if they know there is a chance of it escalating.