Simple strategies when feeling frustrated

Sometimes the fundamental question we ask ourselves can be a source of stress and anxiety.

Take a recent coaching conversation I had with a leader. She had recently take a job as an HR Manager in a new company with a promotion but now finds that she has landed in an alien culture (even thou it’s in the same sector) and is experiencing frustration.

As I listened to her pouring out her frustration about the new team, the way people say yes to actions but don’t do them, the bureaucracy and how it compared badly with how the team worked together at her previous employer, how slow things are and how bad the induction was and so on, something became obvious.

She was unconsciously using the fundamental question “Why?”

  • Why won’t they listen to me?
  • Why can’t I influence the line managers?
  • Why does everything take so long around here?
  • Why can’t they see that there is a better way to work with HR?
  • Why am I having trouble getting their trust?

These are all right and proper questions, but the big problem with why questions is that they send you off on a pointless quest for answers and leave you frustrated and probably others around you. And this only leads to creating circles of negative thinking as we start to vent our frustration with others who are willing to listen to us.

The problem with frustration is that it does not exist. Only the process of being or doing frustration exists.

If you are “doing frustration” it’s usually because you are choosing to do that instead of something more helpful.

A much better fundamental question is “How?”

  • How can I be heard?
  • How can I structure this meeting or pre-empt these questions to make it easier to sell my ideas?
  • How can I understand the informal relationships that are the key to getting things done?
  • How can I develop a more effective and positive mindset about the organisation I work for?
  • How do others see me?

Am I prepared to consider that my actions might be leading to my frustration? If yes, then how do I move towards?

Asking “How can I” is more effective than “Why does” because it puts the focus of control back in your hands.

As the discussion with her developed I noticed that her overall attitude and physiology started to change, yes initially agitated but then over time it started to develop into a more positive conversation. We both recognised that starting with How started to open up possibilities and options in moving forwards rather than looking for justification and problems.

This might be in total contrast with what We hear and read from like of Simon Sinek (Start with Why) who I have a huge amount of respect and time for however if you are creating frustration for yourself, then I encourage you to look at the overall question and reframe this starting with how.

Chris is an experienced management trainer and team facilitator who enjoys a bit of running.

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