Consulting Tip: Carry Your Own Baggage and No One Else’s

I used to be an owner. If someone reacted negatively to a situation or an exchange, I owned their reaction. I focused on it, internalized it, and wouldn’t let it go. What an energy drain that was – and a total waste of time. I knew the only thing I could control in any given situation was my own actions and reactions, but did that stop me from owning the person’s negative response? Nope.

And if you would have asked me anytime last year if I thought I’d ever be able to relinquish ownership, I would have said highly unlikely – even though I knew it was better for me and my peace of mind.

That changed this year, and it’s been freeing.
Take an Aerial View
What brought about the change? Quite simply, I needed peace. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, 2010 was a year filled with turmoil and challenges, and it left me in a constant state of stress. So I sought a means of finding peace amidst the chaos, and I knew it had to start with me. Nothing like a good push to change your way of thinking.

I started by acknowledging that we all have baggage; and we often carry that baggage into each new situation. In fact, the stronger a person’s reaction to a situation, the more likely old baggage is involved. And I no longer wanted to be another’s baggage carrier.

To change that, I now consciously take an aerial view whenever I find myself in a conflict situation and ask myself:

  • Did my actions or words contribute to the situation?
  • Did I bring any baggage?
  • Is there anything I could do differently?

That’s all I can own. That’s all that’s within my control. I fix what I can and what is mine to fix. If the other person is still out of sorts they own that, not me.

Is it easy? No. Do I always do it just right? No – I am human after all. But every time I try to own it, I remind myself that it’s not mine to own. The important thing is I make a conscious effort to follow this process and not beat myself up when I slip up.

What about you? Am I the only owner or recovering owner out there?

If you find yourself carrying another’s baggage, what do you do?

I’d love to hear from you, as I’m always looking for other tools that I can adopt.

avery@aveconsulting.com' About Avery Horzewski

Principal of AVE Consulting, Avery is a marketing and customer communications consultant, and serves on WIC's board of directors as president. As a consultant, she works with companies of all sizes to develop compelling, persuasive, and effective customer-centric marketing and communication strategies that encompass everything from websites to social media to print collateral. Avery assumed the role of WIC president in January 2010, after overseeing the organization’s marketing, PR, social media, and website initiatives for three years.

Comments

  1. mcherylchow@gmail.com' Cheryl Chow says

    Thanks for this post! It’s an issue that we’re all faced with every day, whether we’re consultants or not. I think that “owning” other people’s reaction, their baggage, is a universal problem. EVERYONE does it. The first step is awareness. If you know that that’s what you do, then there’s at least a chance that you can change your reaction.

    I try to take a few deep breaths and center myself. The problem is that I often don’t even remember the concept that I’m not responsible for others’ reactions. What I did for a while is wear a bracelet (a pretty one). Whenever I saw it, I’d remember my commitment.

  2. You’re welcome Cheryl! It’s good to know that I’m not alone! I love your idea about the bracelet. It’s definitely a work in progress for me, but I agree, awareness is the first step.

  3. Taking the aerial view is especially important with clients. Sometimes we forget that even in business we bring our personal baggage. Within the business setting, it may not be appropriate to talk about, but we can certainly take a look at ourselves as you suggest and have empathy for others, even if we don’t know what of their personal background is contributing to the situation. A little bit of kindness toward ourselves and others is a good, first step to unpacking the baggage. Ultimately, though, we can only unpack our own baggage! That’s a good enough reason not to carry someone else’s! 🙂

  4. What a great comment, Karilee. Your close made me chuckle. And your point about approaching each situation with empathy and kindness was spot on and a good reminder that even when we don’t want to carry someone else’s baggage, we can still communicate with kindness and empathy. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!

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