"Self-esteem is the ability to see yourself as a flawed individual and still hold yourself in high regard."

You’re reactive. You really are.

I know, ‘others’ are way more out-to-lunch when they’re upset and defensive, and they really need to get their act together (and wouldn’t they be significantly less annoying if they did?).

But back to you. What is your reactive style?

America, Land of Choice

You basically have 3 options.

1. When push-comes-to-shove, you push back.

Hard. You tend to lean into problems, into conflict, and you ‘take no prisoners.’

Has anyone ever called you controlling? More than once?
Not me.

Nope, I see you more as ambitious. Driven.
A tad unilateral and then bossy, sure. But you have your own cross to bear; you’re not just perfectionistic with others, you are also your own worse critic and suffer from should’ing all over yourself when no one’s looking.

That ‘no prisoners’ thing, did you think that was a metaphor?
Yeah, no it’s not. I meant that literally—ask your colleagues what the body-count is thus far (after all, it’s not yet March, how bad could it be already?).

2. You protect yourself in response to stress.

Although, that’s not how others experience you.
No, they think you are being judgmental, aloof, even arrogant.

And if you do have values driving your behavior or that you hold dear, then nobody would know, ‘cos you’re not saying.

In fact, you are not saying much about yourself at all.

3. When shit gets real, you don't. You adjust.

You’re that nice gal/guy, the perpetually likable who wouldn’t make a fuss, especially when others are already causing a scene. Not you. You’re the local pleaser, the camp counselor helping everyone to just get along, to belong.

A bit passive, yes.
Risk-avoidant? Absolutely.
Are you also on top of stuff? Not likely.

But then, what’s more important: that everyone likes you and gets along or that you catch up on all that admin? After all, who doesn’t have too much to do?


Just recognizing your style, knowing who you are, is already a major step forward; our pattern of reacting while under stress is the water we’re swimming in.

Step two is acknowledging the cost of persisting in this way of interacting with others.

The Price We Pay...

Let’s just be clear that nothing I’ve described is actual leadership. It’s not. That’s not yours or anyone’s leadership style. And it’s not your parenting style either.

Sure, you can lead from that style and one can, and does, parent from within one’s reactive style but let’s not ever imagine that that’s either true leadership or a viable way to parent. It’s not.

Why not?
Well, because both leadership and parenting are ways to solve problems and respond to others creatively. This is to say, we are responding to the situation and people uniquely; as they best need to be responded to.
As opposed to merely doing what we always do.

Habit isn’t creative.
Habit isn’t about what’s in front of us; it’s our past intruding upon our present because we’re triggered.

To be triggered is to apply an old solution, an invariant strategy, to a current dilemma that reminds us of old stuff.
Old stuff that hurt.

There’s nothing necessarily creative or relevant about that.
And if it works then that’s more akin to the broken clock being correct twice a day—sheer good luck.

Lastly, the specific downsides of each style:


Hard charger

You get results, yes? You are also leaving a trail of broken relationships, disenchanted colleagues, and disengaged employees. Your admirable results are often at the expense of those around you feeling at risk.
You’re not safe to work with.

Ms./Mr. Aloof

I know you feel insecure, but nobody else does. You’re probably still a human being, but if you don’t start leaning back in then no one is going to feel safe around you either.
They can’t read you.
They don’t know you.
So they’re not going to help or collaborate with you until you get off of the bleachers and reenter the game.

Hey Chameleon

You are the glue holding it all together, but for what? What’s the plan? Where are you headed, and why?

Sure, getting along is vital since we’re all working together, and, success looks like something, something concrete. What benchmarks are most important? What’s the goal?

You are a reactive mofo.
That’s alright
—you’re also in extremely good company.

I’ll work on it if you will.

Growth is not in perfection, but in quickening your recovery time when you inevitably act contrary to your highest interests.


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