© 2005
…. by Doris Helge, Ph.D.

The following material was excerpted with permission from the book, Joy on the Job - Over 365 Ways to Create the Joy and Fulfillment You Deserve, by Doris Helge, Ph.D., © 2005, Shimoda Publishing,

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Instead of waiting for “difficult people” to change and tiptoeing around as if you are walking on eggshells, remember that broken eggs make wonderful omelets. Decide what you need and take a firm stand. Even if you have been afraid to champion your own cause in the past, your new level of self-respect will eventually be mirrored back to you during your interactions with others.

Transform yourself instead of attempting to reinvent other people. Focus on your role and your behavior rather than on what you think the other party has done wrong. You are powerless to alter someone else’s behavior, but you are totally in control of your own actions. As soon as you determine how you can act differently in the future, you will begin to avoid re-creating frustrating situations.


Do not compromise yourself. The approval of others is conditional if it depends on your behaving in a way that is not your choice. If you really want to be happy at work, you must be true to yourself.

Others may at first be puzzled when you play a new role, so be consistent. Set clear restrictions concerning inappropriate behaviors and stick to them. Provide reasonable consequences for any violation of your boundaries, and follow through with the repercussions you have established. You have every right to set limits and maintain your own space. At first, others may not respect your choices. However, when you consistently demonstrate that “No” means “No” instead of “Maybe,” they will catch on.

If you feel uncomfortable reinforcing your boundaries or implementing consequences, you may wish to access the assistance of a supportive individual or group. If your company does not offer an Employee Assistance Program, consult a mental health professional or a self-help group in the Yellow Pages, your local newspaper, or online.


Write the answers to the following questions as fast as you can. Keep your hand moving on the page even if no thoughts come to you. Answers will emerge.

  1. What are my fears about changing a behavior that doesn’t produce the results I want?

  2. What is underneath my deepest fears?

  3. Are my concerns realistic?

  4. What is the worst that could happen if I altered my behavior?

  5. What am I willing to change about my present behavior pattern?

Be willing to accept whatever you discover beneath your fears of modifying a behavior. View conflict as the tip of an iceberg. Probe beneath the surface. Notice any tendency to negatively judge your motivations or behaviors. (Examples: “Why do I feel that way?” or “I can’t believe I’m still doing that!”)

Don’t judge self-judgments! We all have them. Choose to give yourself the freedom that springs from discovering you don’t have to get rid of self-judgments and insecurities. They flow out of your consciousness quickly unless they are denied or repressed. (What we resist persists.)


Note who is truly responsible for the predicaments you face. Then you won’t accept blame that doesn’t belong to you. Too often, we feel the difficulties of others are partly our fault. We think we need to mop up messes we didn’t create. A vicious cycle begins. An unrealistic sense of guilt prevents you from recognizing who is actually responsible for a problem. Someone becomes defensive. Soon everyone involved suffers.

Do not accept ownership for a problem unless you are part of it. Of course, it takes two to have an argument. Sometimes we unintentionally cause difficulties. Unrealistic expectations are usually the real culprit. Having a rigid image of how things should be paves the road to painful encounters with others.

You can easily avoid unnecessary conflicts. Acknowledge responsibility for any personal errors. Then accept others as they are by recognizing their positive qualities. Challenge yourself to let go of illusions concerning what could or should have been. When you accept what exists, you create peace of mind. You give yourself the freedom to engage in productive behavior. Your capacity for joy on the job escalates dramatically.


We are all subjected to unpleasant individuals and situations every day. Sometimes we are swept into disagreements that don’t really concern us. We have a choice. We can relish yet another opportunity to become angry and tense or we can choose a much more enjoyable path. We can close the door to stress by carefully selecting how we allocate our energy. During the next few days, notice if you have a slight addiction to the drama of conflict. If so, take back your power.

An example will help you put this in perspective. In most cities traffic court convenes five days a week. However, you never participate unless you behave in a way that requires you to be involved. Pause a moment and think of how you can avoid the “traffic courts” that don’t concern you at work.

Consistently let go of what you can’t control. Once you vary your reactions to other people’s behaviors, they will stop pushing your buttons. Tactfully decline participation in senseless games. Doing what is best for you is the only way to motivate others to examine their own actions.

Just remember – how they feel about your choice to change your life is not your problem! We are all in charge of our own feelings and behaviors. Detach from the situation with compassion and empathy.


Disagreements are a normal part of working closely with others. Problems arise when differences of opinion transform into destructive actions. Use the following framework to keep simple arguments from becoming battles. Although the guidelines will not ensure quarrel-free working relationships, they can help you avoid damage caused by disputes.

  • Pause to ponder. Patience pays. To prevent saying things without thinking of the consequences, halt before you comment. Use the following multisensory technique to calm your emotions and reprogram your brain to perceive new ways to solve a conflict. Count to five while touching your thumb to your other fingers. This will help you focus on your ideal outcome and you will act in ways that serve your long-term interests.
  • Focus forward. Stick to the topic at hand. Address only topics that truly need to be resolved. Complaining about actions in the distant past will escalate a squabble. It also indicates you have unresolved personal issues that you need to resolve.
  • Manage your fury. Anger is a natural emotion, especially during conflicts, but don’t allow your anger to run amuck. If you feel your anger reaching the boiling point, breathe deeply, and use a whole-brain integration technique such as the Emergency Mind-Calming Technique described in Joy on the Job. This will safely discharge your anger. If necessary, excuse yourself and leave the scene.
  • Speak and act with respect. Remember we co-create conflicts with others so we can learn and grow. Treat your so-called adversary with the regard and compassion you want to receive. The multisensory five-second rule (explained in “pause to ponder” above) will help you choose words that are appropriate and relevant to the issues.

History has proven that one person with courage can attract a multitude of followers. Each positive internal change you initiate will be reflected by a favorable external situation. In time, you will no longer be able to hide your strengths and capabilities – from yourself or from others. The radiance of your spirit will chase away the last shadows of self-doubt. Soon others will be inspired to follow your example.

Click here to order your copy of Helge’s: Joy on the Job – Over 365 Ways to Create the Joy and Fulfillment You Deserve, with hundreds of additional proven strategies you can immediately use.

Click here to learn how author and international speaker, Doris Helge, Ph.D., can assist you as a keynote speaker or seminar leader.

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