“You need to take an honest look at yourself and assess how you are enabling her behavior.” told my friend
It was my first job and I didn’t have the wisdom or real life experience of how to handle people at work.
I was having an issue with a colleague who used to delegate some of her manual and time intensive tasks to me even though she wasn’t my manager.
I ended up doing the work but received no credit for it because she never mentioned it during any of the staff meetings.
As a result, I felt manipulated, unappreciated and stressed out because due to all the work I was doing for her, I wasn’t completing my projects on time.
When I vented my frustration to my friend, he didn’t offer 'idiot compassion'.
Instead he gave me a dose of honesty and asked me to think about how I was enabling my colleague's behavior and what I could do to solve the problem instead of surrendering my power and being resentful.
So in the next staff meeting, I boldly talked about the projects I was working on including the time I was spending “helping” my colleague’s projects and I did the same during my 1-1 with my manager.
My manager was surprised with all the work I had done for my colleague without getting any credit and asked me not to work on any of my colleague’s projects moving forward.
Honesty is stronger medicine than sympathy, which may console but often conceals. —Gretel Ehrlich
Too often in life, we resort to idiot compassion or are the receivers of idiot compassion from our friends and well-wishers.
Buddhist teacher, author and nun author Pema Chodron, describes idiot compassion as:
“It refers to something we all do a lot of and call it compassion. In some ways, it’s what’s called enabling. It’s the general tendency to give people what they want because you can’t bear to see them suffering.”
As Lori Gottlieb, psychotherapist, Ted Speaker and author often says, “If a fight breaks out in every bar you’re going to, maybe it’s you.”
Lori Gottlieb in her book, ‘Maybe You Should Talk To Someone’ further expands on idiot compassion,
“In idiot compassion, you avoid rocking the boat to spare people's feelings, even though the boat needs rocking and your compassion ends up being more harmful than your honesty.
People do this with teenagers, spouses, addicts, even themselves. Its opposite is wise compassion, which means caring about the person but also giving him or her a loving truth bomb when needed.”
Loving truth bomb- I just love that.
On the other end of the spectrum, there is 'tone deaf compassion.'
I am guilty of doing this especially with my wife.
When she shares her concerns or frustrations, I tend to actively suggest solutions to ease her worries while she just wants to be heard.
Over the years, I have realized that just being there and listening to what she has on her mind helps her.
That's NOT to say, we don't actively work on addressing the issues, but I am more cognizant about the timing of having those "problem solving" conversations.
Brené Brown in her book, Rising Strong writes:
"Show me a woman who can hold space for a man in real fear and vulnerability, and I’ll show you a woman who’s learned to embrace her own vulnerability and who doesn’t derive her power or status from that man.
Show me a man who can sit with a woman in real fear and vulnerability and just hear her struggle without trying to fix it or give advice, and I’ll show you a man who’s comfortable with his own vulnerability and doesn’t derive his power from being Oz, the all-knowing and all-powerful."
So the next time you are tempted to give idiot compassion or tone deaf compassion, pause and think about practicing wise compassion instead.
And if that's difficult, just be present and give your full attention to the other person because often what they are looking for is just to be heard and listened to and NOT for advice.