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Exactly 3 years ago I wrote a blog post about how the teens and young adults I’m working with through BigFish4.kids are – although developing their own personality – often behaving purely based on the input they get from the outside. How they are still able to simply be happy, sad, scared or angry.

I hear you say: “aren’t we all?” I believe that is true. We are. The difference is that those kids are not hiding their emotions behind any language nuances. In fact, if they don’t feel heard, they scream even louder or find other ways to communicate. If you are parenting a teenager, you’ll certainly recognize this. Nor are they taking into account politics and hidden agendas. Although – being the mom of a fresh teen myself – that last thing could be subject for discussion ;-).

Although I smile looking back at my own “good old days”, listening to purple rain and the summer of 69 on my first tape recorder (I must be getting old, I know), just as I wrote 3 years ago, we simply can’t behave like teens in our workplace today. No matter how much we would like to shake up our boss or start screaming to our peers or direct reports when we are not OK with how things are going at work (ed. If you (or your boss) still do(es) that, please contact me). Fact is that our adult interpersonal behaviour is very complex. It is complex at home. And even more complex at work. We should all be equal as human beings but often we are not. Things are at stake. Money. Image. Respect. Pride. Influence. Power. The future.


Hiding how we really feel

So far we all agree I guess. But then in my work as an executive coach, I see the opposite. We ignore the feelings and start working around it.

  • “I am not happy with how things are going, but hey, that’s the reality I have to deal with”.
  • “My boss is not communicating, but hey, he’s the boss”.
  • “My peers are running away with the results of my hard work, but hey, I don’t want to destroy the good team atmosphere”.
  • “Nobody notices how hard I really work, but hey, I’m “happy” to have a job”.
  • “I’m 100% unsure of how I am going to approach this task given, but hey, I can’t let anyone know I am scared to death I won’t succeed”.

We fake happiness and wellbeing. And then we talk about the importance of authenticity.


How to beat this unfortunate habit?

First of all, let me say we are not always conscious of how we really feel. We feel some discomfort. We would love to make a change if possible. It is the “But hey” that makes us silent, even to ourselves.

What I often do in my coaching sessions is having my client Leader talk to a substitute. A wooden doll, a chair, a glass of water. No matter what. In the beginning people always laugh at me. “Do you really want me to talk to a doll”? But when they start “the talk” you see the emotion rising. Some people really get angry. Or sad. Emotions that they might not even have been aware of come to the surface. “I didn’t know it was really this big of a deal to me”. The outcome is always “I should address this. I am going to talk to my boss or colleague”. “Something has to change”.

Try for yourself today. Who do you want to talk to? And why don’t you? Do the test and put something in front of you (no matter what). Visualise it is your boss, or your colleague, or one of your direct reports. You can even print their head (or is that creepy? :-)).

  • It is safe, you have nothing to lose.
  • You can begin over and over again.
  • Repeat yourself.
  • Dig deeper into how you really feel about the situation.
  • Don’t be afraid to get sad or angry whilst doing this.
  • You might end up a lot happier.

After this it can be a lot easier to have “the talk” in the real world. After all, you’ve practised it. Possibly even several times. The biggest emotion has been freed already. You can now look forward to the win-win.

Just try, nobody knows ;-)

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About the author

Sofie Varrewaere is the founder of BigFish4.me and a certified Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coach. After studying a Master in Psychological and Pedagogical Sciences, she ogled into the magical world of Recruitment, Selection and HR Services. Working for the world leader in HR, she has always been in an advisory role in relation to the larger goals of several multinational organizations. In 2013 she started her own company in International executive Coaching. Doing what she is good at, challenging others as well as herself