In Front of the Behaviour
When we see someone behave in a particular way, we are often quick to judge. We see the person lose their temper or get angry and immediately decide on why that person is behaving that way. We see it at face value. No attempt is made to look “behind the behaviour”. The picture that features in this blog, has been loaned to us with the kind permission of an old friend of mine from University. I knew he was a skilled IT professional, but I had no idea he had this kind of talent. The more I look at it, the more impressed I am.
Sometimes when people lose their temper, it is triggered by a very small event. This might be the “straw that broke the camel’s back“. The simple thing that sparks you off, which everyone else things is irrelevant or insignificant. The thing someone says or does that annoys, irritates or angers. This age old proverb can reflect our everyday lives. We’ve probably all experienced something similar to the scenario below.
A Temper Tantrum
We’re leaving the house late for work. We get in the car and not only is there a traffic jam, but, there’s not enough fuel to get to work. The irritation is mounting within us, but, we hold it together because we have a big meeting at work. Then on arrival at work, you realise you’ve left your phone on the table by the door at home. Things are building and building. Then someone makes a silly comment about you being late and looking like you’ve not slept. You give them a fake smile and a little laugh. On the way into the office, you pick up a coffee, sit down and spill it on your desk, clothes and paperwork. Now, the last straw is there and you lose your temper. What do your colleagues see?
Behind the Behaviour
Realistically, the trigger, or the straw that breaks the camel’s back, might be the spilled coffee, but, it might be deeper than that. Without knowing the person, we may well never find out. Take the story above. We’ve probably all experienced something similar. Let’s imagine someone walks into the room just as you lose your temper. Why do they think you’ve lost your temper? Is it because you’ve spilled coffee everywhere? Or is it because you’re late? Maybe, it will be because you forgot to put fuel in the car last night?
I was working in a job shortly after I left University and this was one of my colleagues. They’d walked into the office distracted, spilled their coffee everywhere, lost their temper, kicked a chair over and then slammed a door and went into the bathroom. We were all shocked as it was completely out of character. They were the sort of person who would normally laugh and move on when something like this happens. They were always the happy one. The fun person in the room. To watch them kick a chair and swear was quite a shock for all of us.
After a few minutes of him being in the bathroom, one our other colleagues, who was also a close friend, went in and found him sat in the corner, sobbing on the floor. It turns out, the reason he was late, was because his dad had been taken into hospital at 2 am with breathing difficulties. They’d not been to sleep due to worry and had received a call just as they were about to leave for work from the hospital. The Doctor said that he had cancer and they were running some more tests. When we were talking a few days later, he said that as soon as he heard the word cancer, he didn’t hear anything else. Fortunately, they caught the cancer early and his treatment went well.
When we deliver our training programmes, we spend a significant proportion of the training on understanding why people behave the way they do. We also look at developing healthy relationships where we can support each other and the people we support in a positive way. It’s only when we develop positive healthy relationships that we can start to look behind the behaviour. Once we can get a glimpse into what’s behind the behaviour, we can start to support the person in a more appropriate way.
James Hourihan MSc Econ | FRSA | MIOD
Timian Learning and Development