Help me not dissolve into a stressavoidance puddle at work!
January 30, 2014 3:25 PM Subscribe
How can I avoid totally unraveling when working with a dismissive/cold person?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
In general, I'm a pretty warm, congenial person who can cooperate happily with lots of folks. I lean towards people-pleasing and have anxiety and self-esteem issues that I'm working through in therapy. What I find is that hyper-attuning myself to other people's reactions (and my beliefs about what those cues Really Mean) can lead me to feeling like i'm this little house with all of the windows and doors open, and any old gust of wind can blow through and knock down all the books and break all the plates.
So cue this particular gust of wind: I have a coworker, I will call them J. J is clearly somebody who prides themselves on being smart, no-bullshit, analytical, and kind of mocking in humor. This is widely known about J -- another coworker jokingly tells J they would be an amazing cross-examiner. My boss may have some kind of opinion about J's personality, unclear, but seems to trust J. I think J is competent. I actually have no specific issue with J in and of themselves, as I think analytical no-bullshit people are really necessary on teams.
Except that J's mere presence makes me totally fall apart. I can't explain how profoundly bad about myself I end up feeling when J picks apart something I'm working on (again, ostensibly a reasonable role given that we are on a small team that produces a lot of writing that needs critique), comes in and totally ignores me or begrudgingly engages me (I'm not overbearing in my requests for socializing or anything, I swear! I just try to greet kindly and carry on. but I just feel like waves of dismissiveness radiating out from J).
In the moment, I try to be professional, warm but brief with J, and to match J's tone of analytical specificty when working together. But I just end up feeling like a big fuckup whenever J is in the office. J was absent for several weeks over the winter break, and I felt so much more calm and collected, excited about the work, able to cooperate successfully with other team members, etc. Now with J back, I'm starting to enter into Avoidant Cycles which are really, really toxic for me. Like, hey maybe I should wait a bit to come into work today, okay now I'm there late and I have a brief unsatisfying converastion with J, maybe I should just duck out early to a coffee shop to work from there, shit J must have been doing things with the other members who must all despise me now too, I should just keep avoiding the office whenever possible..
Clearly, my personal attunement to others, and specifically my issues with rejection and self esteem, are sabotaging me. What I'd really like for myself is to be able to say "okay, J is not your ideal person or your ideal coworker, but there's merit to J's approach, and also you need to function as a human being. So here's the best-practices approach to these interactions and these situations. Do it and set aside any other grief."
But I'm not there yet. I'm surprised how poignant my stress about this is -- how it affects everything and just kind of destabilizes me across the board. Again, small house, doors and windows thrown open. I went home today (at a reasonable time) to take Klonopin and write this out, because I know I have to nip this in the bud and get on with my life. But I need help.
tl;dr: How do I come up with some effective way to deal with myself inwardly crumbling in my interactions with dismissive, rejecting J? And what else can I do to build up resilience so folks like J don't totally dismantle me in the future?