Infuse your ever-busier days with a sense of grace: the difference is truly transformative.

Alicia Young author

Alicia Young explores quick tips to ease awkwardness or hostility. 

Dilemma: Office gossip about you.
Consider: Using assertion, not aggression.

It’s tempting to share personal tidbits at work: boundaries easily blur when we spend so much time together. It also helps to find common ground when we join a new company or team, but how do you handle the office gossip that sometimes results? California-based psychotherapist Yvonne Mansell  suggests using “i-messages” to calmly address rumours. An i-message describes the undesired behavior, expresses how you feel, explains why, and possibly makes a request. For example: “Something is bothering me.  I’ve heard that you said “x” and it upsets me that you’d speak about it to others. This is personal, and I’d like us to agree that it’s time to stop.” It’s graceful, clear and effective.

Dilemma:  Hostility between colleagues.
Consider:  Employing empathy.

Jana C. was recently promoted ahead of a colleague. The other woman began rolling her eyes at meetings, arriving late, and missing project deadlines. Mansell advises a shot of empathy.  You’ve likely imagined yourself in your co-worker’s shoes, but dig a little deeper. Picture the plans she had for her pay raise, the loss of face, the wasted weekends (to her mind) spent polishing her rèsumè. Then seek out a quiet moment. “It’s only natural you’d have a reaction to the news. If the tables were turned, I wouldn’t find it easy.  Would you like to talk?” Inviting your co-worker to vent a little could diminish the tension.  Create good-will by leaving the door open to talk.

Dilemma: You feel jealous of your friend(s).
Consider: Naming the problem, to move past it.

Careers. Weddings. Buying a home. It’s part of life that we expect to be chasing similar milestones as our peers—and reaching them at similar times.  When someone jostles ahead of the pack—or just ahead of us—it can sting. We want to be happy for them, but there is a nagging feeling that we’re falling behind.
Jealousy. It’s a song heard everywhere. A colleague lands a plum assignment. Your roommate flashes a diamond the size of an ice cube. A friend inherits a lump sum as you struggle toward a home deposit. We know green is not a good colour on anyone, but envy settles in, and sometimes deepens.
What to do? Stifle your reaction, and vent privately later. Raise a glass to your pal, literally or metaphorically. Choose the graceful response, rather than allow a momentary pang to mar your relationship. Yvonne Mansell advises it helps to name the issue for what it is (to yourself, if no one else). Acknowledge that feeling badly about someone else’s good fortune only makes you suffer. Who needs that toxicity? Instead, practicing generosity of spirit harnesses that sense of want, and channels it in a more healthy way. Tell yourself: “I wish everyone could have these things/opportunities/moments.” Rinse. Repeat. Release.

Dilemma: Handling jealousy directed at you.
Consider: Compassion.

It can feel like a slap when someone resents our opportunity or success. Instead of getting defensive, take a breath. That simple pause is packed with potential to diffuse a difficult situation—and loaded with insight.  Jealousy, as its root, blends fear and anger, with a dash of resentment. A sibling or colleague might feel that your promotion, overseas transfer or engagement somehow translates to less for her: less chance of climbing the ladder, less chance of relocation, even less available men. Her mindset could stem from a position of lack, rather than a position of abundance (“there’s plenty to go around.”). If the resentment bubbles, Mansell suggests soothing friction by letting her know you’ve noticed a change, without making an accusation. “Since my wedding, we seem to be connecting differently. If the roles were reversed, I don’t know how I’d handle this. Our friendship is important to me, and I want us to remain close. How are you feeling? “ Finally, keep a sense of perspective. If your friend lashes out once, and it doesn’t represent who she is, choose to let it slide. Oscar Wilde said: Anybody can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend’s success (or happiness).

Dilemma: You’re pregnant. How to tell your friend, as she battles IVF?
Consider: A low-key approach.

Of course, you don’t need to adopt an apologetic tone when you share your good news.  But a graceful, discreet approach means seeking out your friend before any big announcement, and allowing her to process the news privately. You won’t want her learning about it on social media. Cut her some slack, trust that she is happy for you, and stay aware that the emotional roller-coaster of IVF might conjure reactions that are no reflection on your friendship.

About the Author: Alicia Young is an international journalist, author and speaker. Her award-winning debut book, “The Savvy Girl’s Guide to Grace: small touches with big impact—at home, work & in love” (Parasol Press, 2013) explores ways to tap our inner Audrey Hepburn in a rushed world. www.savvylife.net

Photo by Elizabeth Shrier

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