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5 Strategies for Personal Empowerment in Difficult Situations

5 Strategies for Personal Empowerment in Difficult Situations

    My guess is that most of us would rather not spend much time in a hospital, unless you’re a doctor or nurse and love what you do. I’ve spent a day and a half in St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, CT, with my disabled brother Mark who is waiting for surgery to remove an infected knee implant. So, I’ve had the chance to remember why I really like to avoid hospitals.

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    No matter how much effort goes into the decor, the cleaning, and the landscaping, it’s really hard to offset the effects of the negative energies that exist because hospitals are places with a problem focus. Illness is negative energy. Patients are scared–more negative energy. Family members are concerned–more negative energy. Doctors and nurses are typically overworked, at times doing work that involves risks to human life and dealing with some overwhelming and unpleasant situations. Whew! Lots of negative energy!

    I’ve found myself shifting into survival mode with my own energy so I endure this hospital experience. Here are some things I have been doing:

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    • I look for the good in every employee I encounter, even the nurse’s aide who won’t make eye contact.
    • I ask for what I need or what Mark needs as our needs arise.
    • I don’t take personally employee behaviors that aren’t as pleasant, helpful or supportive as I would like.
    • I stay calm even when I feel scared or annoyed so I can be a grounding presence and bright light for Mark.
    • I take lunch outside so I can shake off some of the negative energy I have absorbed.
    • I remember my life outside of the hospital and remind myself that this experience is only temporary.
    • I focus on how much I love Mark and remain detached even when he’s grumpy and reactive.
    • I appreciate the overall cleanliness of the building.
    • I note and feel grateful for every friendly person I encounter, from the person who made my salad at Subway to the receptionist who validated my parking ticket.
    • I congratulate myself for my patience with Mark and the waiting despite my own fears about Mark’s situation.

    I figure if I have to be here, if this is where I’ve been led to make a difference, I am going to do whatever I can to counter the negative energies that I have no control over with positive energies I do have control over. I can control my thoughts and my attitudes, and manage my emotions and behaviors.

    When you find yourself in situations where you are exposed to negative energies over which you have no control, remember that you can control your own sources of positive energy if you so choose. Here are some ideas.

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    1. Look for the good that does exist. Feel grateful for it. When you deliberately look for good, you will find it. When you focus on negatives, you’ll find it. Wouldn’t you rather have a steady diet of good energies? They will help you more effectively cope with the challenges.
    2. Avoid reacting to others and taking their behaviors personally.                Pia Mellody, author of Facing Codependence, once said that people’s reactions have more to do with them and their history than they do with you, unless you’ve been offensive. So, observe others and wonder about their behaviors, but know that what you’re getting from them could have absolutely nothing to do with you.
    3. Stay in your own power by remaining calm even when others are not. “Shut your mouth and breathe,” is another of my favorite reminders from Pia Mellody. Doing that will help you stay grounded and avoid saying or doing anything you might regret later.
    4. Ask for what you need from people who are capable of giving it to you. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. Only you know what you need. And, it is empowering to respectfully make your needs known.
    5. Don’t make requests of people who are incapable of responding appropriately to your requests. That’s a setup for disappointment and will only fuel your anger.

    What would you add?

    Image: Atencion

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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