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Office Politics: How To Stay Out Of It

Posted on September 22 2015

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Politics is everywhere. At work, within families, friendships, schools, everywhere. I’ve seen more politics at play within some families than our nation’s capital. What I’ve learned is that it’s not really about the politics itself, it’s about people. We have politics everywhere because we have people everywhere. It’s easy to avoid all drama; not so easy to avoid all people.

I often say that the most important lesson I’ve mastered about people is that you cannot control what they do, how they act or what they say. The only person you can control is yourself. Then I suppose it’s not really about people, it’s about you.

Here’s what YOU can do to avoid drama in the workplace and a lot of other situations.

“Is that so?”

Eckhart Tolle tells a story in his book A New Earth about the well respected Zen Master Hakuin, who lived in a small town in Japan. The teenage daughter of his next-door neighbor became pregnant and while being questioned by her angry parents as to the identity of the father of her child, she pointed the finger at Hakuin. Her parents angrily confronted him, telling him that their daughter had confessed to him being the father of her unborn child. “Is that so?” was all the monk would say.

Word spread and the Zen Master lost his reputation and a lot more. When the child was born, the parents demanded he take the child into his care since it was his responsibility. He responded again, “Is that so?” A year later, the teenager remorsefully confessed to her parents that the real father of the child was the young man who worked at the butcher shop. Her parents, feeling guilty went to apologize to the monk and ask for forgiveness. “We are really sorry. We have come to take the baby back. Our daughter confessed that you are not the father.” “Is that so?” is all the Zen Master would say as he returned the child to the family.

It is my belief that when others speak badly of you, it’s a reflection of who they are and not who you are. I stand strongly on the motto that other people’s opinions of me is none of my business. It’s difficult to do but it’s important that you train yourself not to get emotionally involved and invested in human drama. Narratives change, emotions run high and low. In being still, you can avoid getting involved and the trauma that follows.

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

You’ve heard this so many times but sometimes, the simplest solutions are the hardest to accept. I’ve found that there’s only one way to implement this –be present. In every conversation, be present. In every encounter, be present. In every moment and every word, be present. When you are aware of yourself, it’s difficult to run your mouth and later find yourself feeling remorseful about what you should or shouldn’t have said.

“If you want to keep a secret, keep it to yourself.”

Assume that anything that leaves your mouth is no longer a secret. If it’s meant to be confidential, then keep it to yourself. I can’t tell you how many times someone has said to me, “this stays between the both of us” only for 5 other people to repeat the same information to me.

“If someone constantly speaks badly of others to you, it’s safe to assume that they will speak badly of you to others.”

Maybe you think it’s cool; perhaps you think people will like you more… Whatever your reason for engaging a gossip / bad-mouther / sh*t talker, you can be sure that their venom will always make its way back to you. My mom gave me the best advice recently. She said, be like the rain. “The rain doesn’t choose to pour on one person and avoid another. Be kind to all, be compassionate to all, speak well of all. If you can’t speak well of someone, then say nothing at all.” Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that everyone will appreciate who you are and how you are. What it does mean is that you have chosen to be better, to treat everyone equally and fairly. You have chosen to excuse yourself from the grime and the drama. YOU have made a choice to rise above it all.

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