It’s different for all of us – that place we slip into when we’re not at our best. Is it the tone in your voice that has your partner shrinking from you when you snap at them after a tough day at work? Or the hopeless, helpless feeling you get when you say “sure” to that one ‘quick thing’ your demanding boss needs you to sort out at 4pm on a Friday afternoon? The truth is, the short temper solution is the same as the “self-pity” or “burning resentment” solution.
Today I’m sharing a powerful tool that can help you manage these kinds of frustrating behaviours, without blocking your (totally valid!) feelings.
Let’s start by getting clear on exactly what we mean when we talk about these kinds of situations. I don’t mean times when you’re just feeling a bit sensitive or you’re in “getting things done” mode. Just because you’re not being over-the top nice and friendly doesn’t mean there’s an underlying issue you need to deal with. As leaders of any kind, there are times when we need to give clear instructions, or convey information, without the added fluff.
What I invite you to consider today are the times when you’re slipping into a version of yourself who’s less in control of how she’s behaving.
The 3 disempowering archetypes
We talk a lot about the 5 Women’s PowerTypes – the 5 powerful female archetypes we use to guide the new version of leadership we’re creating.
But today I want you to think about the dis-empowering archetypes you can find yourself in. The 3 really common ones we find are the Bitch, the Victim and the Martyr. Have a read of these scenarios and see if you recognise yourself in any of them:
The Bitch is that short-tempered you who loses her sense of kindness and compassion, and even lashes out at those around her. Wendy, our Marketing and Events manager, spots this one at times when she’s feeling overloaded and snaps at her husband.
“I literally see him shrink in front of me” she says. “That’s when I know I’ve crossed over into the woman I know I don’t want to be. And it’s not really me either! It’s a sign there’s something else going on.”
Victim comes out when we find ourselves feeling totally helpless. Maybe someone at work says you haven’t completed something when you know you have.
For me it was when my husband made an innocuous comment about how “we weren’t good at implementing things”. Instead of calmly addressing it – “I sent that to you on Tuesday, actually” or “That’s interesting – how do you think we could improve?” – we go into “poor me” mode. It might be shrinking and going silent, or flaring into defensiveness.
For many women, Martyr’s the disempowering role we might actually have been praised for. Staying late at the office, helping out family members on weekends, never taking a moment for ourselves…
If you tend to give too much and find yourself in over-sacrificing mode, it’s likely martyr’s the tendency to watch out for.
So when you know what the pattern you tend to fall into is (you may well rotate through all three, depending on the circumstances!) how do you find a different way of being?
Allow me to introduce one of the most powerful tools we have to combat these disempowering archetypes: Trigger Tracking.
What is Trigger Tracking?
Trigger tracking is a way of moving into a place of awareness and observation – so that you can start to uncover what’s at the root of the behaviour you want to change.
A lot of the time we find ourselves getting frustrated when we’re unable to change our behaviour. That’s because we’re focusing on the symptom of what’s going on, rather than the root cause.
Often, the flash of temper or sink into despondency is actually a defense mechanism we’ve evolved over time – maybe even since childhood – to protect us from a “risk”.
For example, you might be getting angry because underneath, you’re afraid of being rejected.
Trigger tracking helps you identify what your unique patterns are, so that you can start to change them.
How to get started with trigger tracking
The easiest way to start with Trigger Tracking is to set aside a period of time – in our BePowerful program, we use it over the course of one week.
Take a piece of paper and divide it into 6 columns. Now, what you’ll do is notice each time you find yourself slipping into one of these disempowering modes, and note down the following things:
- What happened?
For example: I felt totally inadequate and paralysed with a big work project – and ended up missing the deadline I’d promised my team.
- What was your bad behaviour?
I spent an hour complaining to my partner about how unreasonable my boss’s expectations of me were, instead of taking action on the project or letting them know I couldn’t do it.
- What archetype did you go into?
- What was the trigger for that archetype?
Feeling that I wasn’t good enough. A sense that everyone was relying on me, and I had no one to support me.
- How did you feel?
Frustrated, helpless and small.
- What was the impact on others?
My team had to work harder because I missed the deadline. My boss was frustrated that I hadn’t spoken up sooner. My partner told me how worried they were about the demands being placed on me. It’s upsetting to them to hear me feeling so down.
As you begin to complete the sheet with each example as it happens, you’ll start to notice certain repeated patterns coming up. Don’t worry if you feel this is happening a lot – the more data you have on what triggers you, the better! At the end of the week, take a look at what you’ve learned.
What to do when you’ve tracked your triggers
When you’ve gathered your examples over the time you’re trigger tracking for, you’ll hopefully start to see some patterns emerging. For example, it might be that on the days when you’re really feeling “not good enough” as a mum that you find yourself taking on more and more tasks at work, and ending up in full on Martyr.
Or perhaps you try to pack too much into your day and that’s when you end up snapping into Bitch with your energetic toddler – even though you know it’s not their fault.
Whether you tend to get angry and snap, fall into victim mode or take on way too much when you move into martyr, the solution lies in becoming aware of your behaviour so that you can take steps to address the issue that’s actually causing you to snap.
That might be working with a one-to-one coach, using a meditation process to release emotions (there’s a Soft PowerCast on this for our BeOne Community members), journalling or talking to a therapist or professional.
Want more tools like this?
Trigger tracking is just one of the powerful tools we explore in BePowerful, our 12 week transformational coaching program. If you’re curious, the first step is to find out your PowerTypes profile. Click here to get your personalized report.
Our intention is simple. To support professional women to handle the day-to-day so they can unleash the bigger impact they feel called to make in the world.
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