Significance: Who Do You Think You Are?!

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Know anyone of significance where you wonder, “Who died and made you God?”

“Whether you try too hard to fit in or you try too hard to stand out, it is of equal consequence: you exhaust your significance.”
― Criss Jami, Author of Healogy

These kind of people are almost always high asset in terms of intelligence and skills, making them difficult to let go. What happens is that they act like they have more significance than everyone they meet. You resist supporting them, thinking and saying anything nice about or to them and even if you don’t generally gossip, they’re the ones you’re most likely to tear down (or rip apart!), and privately criticize.

They make hackles rise. They infuriate with their smug, condescending tone of voice, body language and message: “I’m clearly better (stronger, smarter, more accomplished, important and special) than you. Hmm… make that everyone.” When you experience them, you’re witnessing one of the most provocative of the five mistaken goals of misbehavior in action: the goal of Significance.

When I teach my program Redirecting Negative Behavior, and I describe a person in this goal, I see heads nod vigorously, eyes roll and recognition groans as a resurgence of feelings are evoked. Why? A person in the goal of Significance is a master at stirring any dormant feelings of inadequacy, powerlessness and self-doubt in others. What most people don’t realize is no matter how cocky, arrogant, self-assured and insensitive this person appears, they’re actually deeply discouraged, believe they’re not enough and no matter how accomplished (and they are), they’re certain if others did not need them, they’d never, ever want them.

As crazy or unbelievable as it seems, all misbehavior is a reaction when we feel discouraged; when we don’t feel powerful, lovable, connected or contributing.

Of all the five misbehavior patterns, the goal of Significance is one of the hardest to recognize and redirect. The guilty party doesn’t look guilty, discouraged, nor in need of anything. They look egotistical, arrogant, and self-righteous. You may recoil in doubt, finding this hard to believe but I know this pattern intimately, because it’s my favorite when I get discouraged. I have closely observed the giving and receiving of it and the havoc it can wreak on teamwork within families, classrooms or boardrooms. Therefore, learning to redirect it is a worthwhile and helpful skill.

Regarding all misbehavior, it’s helpful to know the varied causes and treatments. I always ask workshop attendees, “If you went to a doctor with a sore throat and were automatically given antibiotics, would you trust and respect the doctor?” No. We all know this is bad medicine because many things can cause a sore throat. Screaming one’s head off, a fish bone, allergies, or a non-infectious virus may be factors for which antibiotics are at best ineffective and at worst harmful. Similarly, understanding how to diagnose and treat misbehavior patterns accurately is essential for effective outcomes.

When anyone is misbehaving, they’re subconsciously attempting to play you, to influence your reactivity; they’re determined to enroll you in proving their worst fears are true. In the case of the Significance goal, the person is systematically working to provoke competition or put-down from you and is usually successful. Before you know it, you’re ignoring them, withdrawing or exuding disgust. When they engage in competitive, striving and proving behaviors such as bragging, dismissing, criticizing and judging, that’s actually when they’re most painfully in need of remembering they’re enough. As crazy or unbelievable as it seems, all misbehavior is a reaction when we don’t feel powerful, loveable, connected or contributing.

You may be asking at this point, “Ok, what CAN I do?” As distasteful as it may seem when you’re being provoked, that’s your greatest opportunity to be powerfully influential and helpful. If you redirect, you bring about positive change to all involved, including yourself, which is a socially and emotionally intelligent thing to do! Redirect is about recognizing and intentionally opposing a discouraged person’s goal to strengthen fearful beliefs.

Steps to redirect the goal of Significance: 1) Shift your thinking. Recall, “This person falsely believes they’re unwanted and un-needed! This person feels painfully inadequate and mistakenly believes there’s not enough love and caring to go around.” 2) Find and acknowledge all their specific assets, talents, and gifts. If this is difficult, you’re infected with discouragement yourself and must get determined to look for, find and speak these. Be detailed and sincere, or they’ll become further discouraged. 3) Mirror back all words and ideas (you witness and reflect their abundant adequacy) and 4) (imperative) Lead them to use their gifts and assets to empower and support others rather than compete.

Would you like to be skilled at crafting strong, loving, positive relationships? Want greater cooperation? Sign up for my Redirecting Negative Behavior program. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to understand and master those toughest relationship issues. You’ll enjoy being profoundly helpful and fulfilled as you master transforming fear to love!

As published nationally in the column Emotional Intelligence in Women’s Journals, Dec 2010 / Jan 2011

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