Finding The Balance Between Grace and Self-preservation

Astrid Heeren photographed by Jeanloup Sieff for Harper’s Bazaar 1964

The balance between grace and self-preservation is often something that women struggle with and sometimes our inherent traits of connecting, communicating and supporting others, traits that are highly sought after in the workplace, can be detrimental and downright tiring when left unchecked.

I was chatting with a friend the other day, who felt awful for not following up on a few things and was apologising for their bad manners, despite the fact they were dealing with some very difficult health issues. As a friend, I didn’t even notice the bad manners she perceived had occurred – what I did notice though was my interest in what or who had prompted this reaction from her.

In the workplace in times of high stress when our very positive traits get out of hand, we can sometimes replace them with not so positive versions of those traits:

  • Supportive – becomes smothering
  • Connecting – becomes nosy
  • Communicating – becomes needy
  • Emotionally open – becomes emotional

But the thing that is most interesting is who, when in stress, perceives those emotions as negative – is it the giver or the receiver?

How others perceive us is something more difficult to manage than our own feeling of ‘overwhelm’. It is a natural response for women when feeling overwhelmed, to want to connect and communicate. Do that with a man when he is in stress and he will see a whole different side of the story, because when he is in stress, he wants to withdraw, retreat and often sleep – for him that is biologically appropriate exactly the same as our response is appropriate for us.

This is often one of the biggest challenges of team dynamics in a mixed gender workplace. Being aware of these simple differences can overcome many drifts within a team, not to mention the positive impacts it can have on your other relationships.
Cheryl Daley b and w

Cheryl Daley
Cheryl is a Performance Coach, Change Agent and Leadership Mentor.

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