What kind of fighter are you?
What does it mean to “fight” in business or anywhere in our lives and relationships for that matter? And how can you fight to win in a way that no one gets hurt? Is that even possible?
When I was a child I was taught that fighting should be avoided at all cost. I mean the kind of fighting that usually involves lots of kicking and screaming, bloody noses and scraped knuckles. Fighting is bad, right? Well I think that fighting is important and healthy, especially in a work environment although in this instance I am talking about a very different type of fight, a ‘clean’ fight and one that involves no physical altercation.
In my experience most people deny they ever get involved in fighting in the workplace and will usually avoid a fight at all costs even to the extent that avoiding a fight or confrontation can cause more damage than actually confronting the issue. “Fight” has become a dirty word and is synonymous with bullying and abuse.
The bottom line is – there is already a fight going on even though you may not be aware of it and worse still the biggest fight is the one we have with ourselves. Fight? What fight am I talking about? It is the conversation you have with yourself, about yourself, when you’re by yourself. It’s that voice in your head that has an opinion, and usually a negative one, on just about everything and anything. If you’re asking yourself “what voice?” then THAT is the voice in your head that I’m talking about and it is incessantly chattering away and talking to you, offering opinions and advice whether you ask for them or not.
For the most part we are simply not aware of this fight and consequently rarely notice it. It’s that same voice which has us walk past the mess at the photocopier saying, “it’s not my concern, no one else bothers”, the voice that convinces us we don’t have the experience needed when we see that ad for our dream job so we don’t apply. More importantly this same voice also has us participate in the silent, yet deadly, battlefield of office politics with some damaging consequences.
We all deal with difficult people and situations from time to time and we can have strong opinions on certain things, I know I certainly do. Learning to ‘fight clean’ enables us to win cleanly and at the same also allows the people we are fighting with to win with us. What does that mean and how can we possibly fight clean in the heat of a debate or when the other person is fighting dirty?
Let’s start by looking at fighting in a very different way. Most of us believe that fighting is not nice and we have been punished or taught not to fight as children. In actual fact fighting is a very necessary part of our growth, relationships and life in general. We can either choose to play safe, avoid fighting and end up being unhappy and resentful or get out there and fight for the things that are important to us and make our lives worthwhile. We know that Nelson Mandala, Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi all fought for what they wanted and these are fights that we admire. So how do we emulate those fights and build the emotional muscle required to have them ourselves?
The first place to start is by cleaning up the internal fight we have. As long as we keep listening to that chattering voice and keep those internal arguments alive, we will stay a victim and be helpless and resentful. The good news is there really is another way! You see there is some element of the good, bad and ugly in all of us. The bad and the ugly side of our nature have a tendency to fight dirty, to hold us back and to beat up on us. The good side encourages us to fight cleanly, supports us like our own personal cheerleader and pushes us forward. Recognising when we are fighting dirty is the very first step and noticing when the chatter is turning nasty or keeping us down is vitally important.
When we start to interrupt the bad and the ugly dialogue and give it less “air time” we fight cleaner. The more we notice and interrupt then the balance shifts and our good voice gets stronger. Cleaning up our internal fight, that fight you have with yourself, will subsequently clean up our external fight, the fights you have with others.
Why do we fight dirty? Well we fight dirty because we haven’t learnt any other effective way and we may have been ‘rewarded’ for our bad behaviour in the past. Our behaviours are determined by our emotions, which in turn are determined by our thoughts. Shift our thoughts and our emotions and behaviours will follow. When we start to take full responsibility for our thoughts, the good, the bad and the ugly, then we have the freedom to choose how we respond and how we act rather than be a reaction to what is happening around us.
When we start to take responsibility we can then direct our fight at the issue and not the person. It’s never personal when we attack the issue together. People do not get hurt in a fight where they are not personally attacked, rather, they are given a powerful alternative and are encouraged to act and behave differently.
This is what I mean by ‘Fighting Clean’!
Jennifer Elliott is the founder and CEO of Integrity and Values, a leadership development organisation that empowers leaders to build responsible teams that produce extraordinary results.
Recognised as one of Australia’s leading executive leadership and behavioural change consultants, Jennifer has worked with teams and individuals across Australia for over 30 years..
Jennifer’s impressive sales and management history is supported by her own experience owning and running successful multi-million dollar companies and through building and leading her own effective teams. She has first-hand knowledge on the business building process, the payroll struggle, confronting management issues and dealing with cash-flow problems.