How to stop externalizing your problems at work

Door Patrick Verheij

externalize; externalized; externalizing

transitive verb

1. to make external or externally manifest

2. to attribute to causes outside the self :  rationalize <externalized his lack of ability to succeed>

– A Merriam-Webster Definition –

“How often do I attribute the cause of something which happens to me outside of myself?”

Is that even a question you would ask yourself now and then? Trust me, it would be wise to do so. We often externalize things and more often than not, it is the cause of a lot of suffering.

Think back of that rather bad performance review you got for example. Or remind yourself of that person who let you down the other day. Or perhaps you could relive your anger at a certain manager who didn’t keep his promise. Again. And what about that colleague who still hasn’t come up with that document you need so badly by now?

Externalizing our pains and problems is so extremely easy. We can always blame another person for not being empathic enough, not being fast enough, not being gentle enough, not being respectful enough, and so on.

And so we do. And whilst doing it, we create bad feelings towards one another at the workplace. We gossip by telling one-sided stories. Not on purpose of course. Nevertheless, we do.

And such is created a culture of distrust and disbelief, common at many a workplace.

It can be avoided, though. Avoided by a combination of two things. Two simple things, if you’d ask me:

  1. A firm belief that anything bad caused to you, whether it is your own fault or not, can only be dealt with by you.
  2. Solid reflection on the feelings you experience.

Aa a careful reader you will understand by now that I am aiming at the process of internalization as a cure for unhealthy externalization.

The first part of the ability to internalize is a willingness to firmly believe that you are the center of the universe. Your own universe of course. Any wise man will explain to you that taking full responsibility for anything that happens to you is the foundation of personal development and character building.

“If it is to be, it is up to me” could be the your motto to live by. It took me some eight years to get there myself. Read any book on the subject or just trust me on it. And if you don’t, then at least try to believe it. It’s worth it.

The second part of the ability to internalize builds upon the belief from part one. That second part requires you to reflect on your feelings about what happened to you.

When something goes awry, do you then even know what you feel? I don’t mean just the anger or the disappointment or the resent towards another person. I mean the full spectrum of feelings, including those about yourself.

What I am aiming at is the following question you could ask yourself: “is the feeling I have about what happened to me actually worth all the commotion?”

More often than not, the honest answer to that is a solid “no”. The point is that such a realization often comes only after a while. Alas, in the time being, your feelings towards the antagonist who caused your suffering may already have been set in stone by then.

The most harm is usually done when two people are somehow dependent on one another but did not (yet) establish a bond of trust between them. That, of course, will never happen once negative feelings come into play and which aren’t dealt with properly.

A wise person with a firm will to bend things towards his will, will then ask himself an extremely powerful question with the intent to resolve the derision:

“How do my thoughts about the other person(s) restrict me?”

This is a rather selfish question. And righty so! Because without the right incentive towards oneself, why would one revert to solving anything?

So you are hereby invited to think about all the negative effects which come from holding a grudge against someone else. Now THAT will have you overcome your pride and move you to a respectful resolution. And if it doesn’t, well, the whole damn thing probably isn’t worth such harsh feelings anyway.

There you have it: bending externalization towards internalization. Highly useful at work and also on any other occasion.

Have fun dealing with your feelings. You deserve it.

Patrick Verheij

06 59 443 447

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