Since I was the family scapegoat, I grew up having one of two reactions to unwarranted criticism. Some would describe it as passive-aggressive, I’d describe it more as appeasive-aggressive because it’s not passive when one puts one’s head down on the floor for anyone who wanted to kick one in the teeth. It takes action to do that. Action for which I’m ultimately responsible as a grown adult!
Not suprisingly, this would encourage even more unwarranted criticism. I was just begging & volunteering to be everyone’s fall gal, but I was utterly clueless that this was the outcome. It was how I was raised and what I was used to. Occasionally, I’d get really pissed off, because letting resentment fester and pile up will do that to a person. And I’d lash out, becoming disproportionately angry/aggressive for the situation.
Neither really worked. Appeasement only encouraged more scapegoating and bullying. Aggression only made me the bully. Both ensured that I wasn’t taken seriously and neither were any valid complaints or observations I had.
Through therapy and self-help work, I’ve learned about the second A word in between Appeasement and Aggression. It’s Assertiveness! And am I ever loving it now that I finally understand it! I’ve educated myself on the signs that I might possible be under an unwarranted sign of attack. And I’ve learned to call people on it right away when it can be done politely and professionally (in work situation).
For example, recently at work, I was dealing with a resource that wasn’t intuitive. I could have called the person, outside of our department, who needed the material for the resource, but department protocol requires to check within first. Completely understandable and sensible as it helps prevent us looking like idiots to outsiders.
So, I requested any of my colleagues familiar with it to please contact me. It was EXPLICITLY stated that I wanted to check within the department before going to the requester outside of the department Two responded and it bascially confirmed what I thought and I had to go back to the person making the request..
One however, didn’t let it go at that. He told me I was making it more complicated than it had to be and that I was making assumptions and talk to the requester. I calmly, but firmly, told him I wasn’t making assumptions or trying to make anything complicated. I pointed out I WAS planning to ask the requester, I just wanted to know if there was anyone proficient in this particular resource before going to him . He said he wasn’t proficient.
I’d made it pretty clear I was looking for proficiency in my email requesting help and I double checked with my supervisor to make sure I was clear about that, she agreed I was.
Normally, I would have:
- let the wording about complicate and assumption go unchallenged and I’d simmer in resentment. He would also have the impression that I’d complicated and assumed on an assignment. He’s not my supervisor, but he does have input into my performance evaluation. I’d get unfavorable feedback in my evaluation and then I’d be simmeringly resentful over that.
- lash out, taking a nasty tone or complain about him. Which would make me look unprofessional, not a team player and like I don’t handle stress well. This would have affected me negatively in my evaluation as well.
This may be average for most people, but for me this is huge! Instead of feeling put upon like I did when I appeased or guilty and ashamed of losing control when I aggressed, I feel normal! I’ve defended myself from unfair attack, which means I don’t have anger to carry around and anyone who might try scapegoating with me knows it ain’t gonna work here! I’m calmer and happier and people are more willing to take me and my observations and comments seriously. And I did it all without being rude or obnoxious.
To all of us struggling with this issue and to those who support us, here’s a little video dedication, let’s do a little victory dance: