Welcome to “Ask Joe,” the advice column for the community of RCers. Looking for some clarity on tricky issues in your life? Having trouble confronting yourself and others – work colleagues, friends, partners – on challenging issues? Share what’s on your mind with Joe and he will offer some clear suggestions on how to approach the issue from the perspective of Respectful Confrontation.
Write to Joe:
Reaching Joe couldn’t be simpler; just email your question to email@example.com. Your identity will be kept anonymous, but do note that questions may be edited for length and clarity.
I have a challenging situation at work. My desk is located in an open space where anyone can come by to talk with me. I like having the attention and it is kind of my job to be available to answer questions for others at work. I also like it that people find me friendly and like to hang out with me.
But I’m noticing lately that it is wearing me out. I don’t seem to get my work done and I feel like I have no energy at the end of the day. What can I do? I don’t feel like I can tell them to go away. I like to be seen as nice, I don’t want people to get upset with me.
Dear Open Door,
I bet this feels challenging to you. You seem to derive a lot of your self-confidence and sense of value from being a “nice guy”. Nice guys are both men and women and have a natural gift to connect with others and make people feel at ease. It is your gift, OD!
However, being nice all the time is not necessarily what is best to deal with all situations, nor is it healthy for you. It seems that you are allowing others to cross into your personal space and you are not stating clearly what your boundaries are. This is very hard for nice guys.
It is essential for your own well-being and also for the productivity of the company for you to make clear when you are available and when you need your time for yourself. I understand it is hard when you don’t have an office with a door, but I’m sure you can come up with some clever ways to make it clear that you are “out to lunch” or that you are not to be disturbed. Make it light. you may even make up some fun signs that actually say something like “do not disturb.”
But first you must find a clear and focussed way to let your colleagues know what your boundaries are. Be sure to use the “No, and…” strategy when addressing them. Let them know what is appropriate and then make it clear how you can let them know when it is not the right moment to come with a question or just hang out. I’m sure if you communicated your needs in a clear, focussed way, where you don’t put any blame on anyone and you make it clear that you are still willing to engage, they will want to support you.
But remember that it is hard to change patterns and habits. They of course will find it hard at first to no longer have access to you at all times. You must remind them of the new arrangement. And you will also find it hard to stand firm and continue to clarify your feelings and needs. I know I find that hard! Review your notes or the chapter in Mastering Respectful Confrontation on the Four Pillars of True Power to help you stay grounded, focussed, courageous in asserting your needs, and flexible enough to skillfully deal with challenges as they arise.
Good luck with your task of clarifying who you are and empowering yourself by asserting your boundaries and establishing your personal space. This leads to a deeper level of self-awareness and the ability to engage in an openhearted way.
Have fun with it,