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How to make your boss and your subordinates understand and accept you just the way you are!

By Atip Muangsuwan

Stephen Covey wrote in his book, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ that, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” is one of the 7 habits that highly effective people should possess when it comes to dealing with people.

One of my high-level executive clients who works in a governmental organization showed up in our coaching session with a communication problem with her boss and also her subordinates. Her problem was… she wanted her boss and her subordinates to understand and accept her as the way she is.

So, we began our coaching session by exploring her stories with her boss and her subordinates. From the story with her boss, she shared with me that her boss misunderstood that she didn’t want to make a presentation on behalf of him in one of the key stakeholder meetings; which in fact, she herself also got another critical meeting that she needed to participate in. However, someway somehow, the message didn’t get across to him. So, he misunderstood her and he got mad at her. This incident also caused his distrust in her.

For her subordinate case, she told me that she had many subordinates who are in Gen Y and Gen Z while she herself is in Gen X. So, there’re some generation gaps between her and them and that causes some difficulties and conflicts in the working relationship between her and them.

To make the long story short, what my client wanted to get out of our coaching session was… some good techniques or strategies that she could use for handling both her boss and her subordinate case.

So, I asked her what she really wanted from her boss and her subordinate in this particular case. She replied, “I want them to understand me and accept me just the way I am.”

Then, I asked her, “Which option is easier to do between you seeking to understand them and you making them to understand you?”

She replied, “I seek to understand them.”

Then, I asked her, “Which is easier to change between your perception about them and their perception about you?”

She replied, “My perception about them.”

Next, I asked her, “How could you apply your top character strengths in your boss and subordinate case?”

(I asked her to do the VIA Character Strengths Test prior to this coaching session.)

She said, “I’ll apply my no. 3 strength: kindness and generosity and no. 4 strength: forgiveness and mercy in this case.”

At the end of our session, I asked my client to summarize her key insights from our coaching conversation.

She shared her key insights as follows:

  1. She will utilize her top character strengths in dealing with her boss, her subordinates and also other people.
  2. She will seek first to understand, then to be understood.
  3. She will accept her boss, her subordinates and other people just the way they are rather than wanting and making them to accept her the way she is.
  4. She will change her own perception about her boss, her subordinates and other people rather than trying to make others change their perception about her.

My own insight from this coaching session is that… “Most people usually wish to change other people and/or change the events or circumstances. However, they are not aware that the person whom they can really change is… themselves. When one can change oneself, one doesn’t need to change others.”

And another key insight is that… “Ask not how you can make others understand and accept you, ask how you can understand and accept others.”