Q: We keep hearing that life is not fair. So, are those of us born with an innate sense of fair play naturally doomed to be taken advantage...

Share story

Q: We keep hearing that life is not fair. So, are those of us born with an innate sense of fair play naturally doomed to be taken advantage of by those who are not?

A: No. There are only two ways in which you can repeatedly be taken advantage of by others:

1. Refuse to see what’s going on because what’s happening isn’t fair, ethical or right.

2. Believe it’s the responsibility of others to play fair rather than your responsibility to set limits.

When we spend lots of energy recounting how mean other people are, the irony is we are usually looking for validation from someone else to want better treatment. You can try to get a cast of thousands to agree, or you can skip polling others and focus on results.

It’s impossible to be effective when we are expecting a situation to magically become what it “should.” It doesn’t change anything, but it does keep us distracted. We can only be effective when we can look accurately at the truth of our predicament.

It’s also important to know that you don’t need to change the way you feel about a problem to solve it.

Once you’ve accepted your internal state (rage, hurt or anxiety), imagine a world in which you got what you wanted. Of course, in this dimension your co-worker is a better human being, but focus on the end result. Now work backward and consider how to get that end result without changing your co-worker.

For example, if your co-worker likes to start World War III in every meeting, your end result might be that you don’t have to fight.

Now here’s the fun part: Next time your co-worker launches his attack, regard him soberly and state, “Yes, we disagree.” It might even occur to you that he can’t start a war unless you accept his invitation. You might even realize that he fights with you to be right and you fight back for the same reason.

Now, the truly empowering awareness might be that just because someone at work throws a power struggle, you don’t need to attend. All this freedom can come to you without you feeling comfortable or validated or your co-worker changing.

Often at work we bargain with reality because “the way things are” makes us feel bad. Since most of us find emotional suffering intolerable, we end up behaving impulsively to make our bad feelings go away. Usually, impulsive decisions make our suffering worse.

Keep in mind that everyone (and this would probably include Jesus, Mother Teresa and Gandhi) has experienced pain because of other people. We don’t have to take it, but our ability to influence the situation improves if we can suffer consciously and then take action.

The last word(s)

Q: I manage a female manager who is a bully. I’ve given her what she wants, but she keeps demanding more. How do I get her to see reason?

A: You can’t. Your employee needs limits, not reason.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., is an executive coach, trainer, therapist, speaker and author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). She can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at interpersonaledge@comcast.net; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube