Cleaning Out The Junk That Stands Between You And Success

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About the Authors

Tish Squillaro has more than 17 years experience advising executives in strategic planning, organizational dynamics and human capital allocation.

Timothy I. Thomas has helped to transform organizations working as a leadership development trainer, executive coach, and change management expert.

How to Build Trust

Sometimes in life you discover that friends, loved ones or co-workers have been invited to a meeting or event that you would have liked to be included in. If you’re like most of us, you’re somewhat curious about why the organizers failed to include you, and then you dismiss it from your mind. However, sometimes, if you’re not careful, a reasonable reaction to a random event can spiral into full-blown Paranoia. The Paranoid person might spend days or weeks obsessing about the guest list, trying to learn what’s being discussed or even consider crashing the meeting.

Left unchecked, Paranoid people become constantly suspicious of others’ behaviors and expend huge amounts of time and energy trying to discern the ulterior motives behind every conversation, text or email. They’re always looking for a hidden message or a reason to question the decisions made by those around them. The result is hugely draining to any organization, and the morale of those within it.

Recognizing and addressing these symptoms in yourself is one thing. Being vigilant about them in others is another, because Paranoia is often linked to other forms of HeadTrash such as Control or Insecurity.

However, there are clearly identifiable signs of a person with Paranoia. For one, they usually surround themselves with “B” players. Whether it’s hiring the team around them, or the friend group they select, the Paranoid person ensures that no one can outshine them. They are often reluctant to try new things, because it might require them to engage with others they distrust. If you work with or are in a relationship with someone suffering from Paranoia, expect to be subjected to constant questions, requests for meetings and demands for justifications that can sap your energy.

How can you overcome the emotional baggage tied to a person suffering from Paranoia? To start, ask probing questions. By distracting them from their own self-protective thought processes, you can begin to get them to share the information you need to move the relationship forward.

Paranoid people are good at manipulating others to share their opinion so they can avoid the threat of a different idea. Sometimes these ideas can be a little out there, so try to recognize when these opinions arise and don’t fall prey to Paranoia’s persuasion. This will continue to get easier as you learn to identify what’s behind these ideas.

It’s important that in dealing with a Paranoid person, you get them to understand they are seeing the world through a distorted lens. Be patient in building trust in the relationship, and helping them see the world as the rest of us do, and you will ultimately have a calmer, more effective work or home environment.

More tips on how to handle Paranoia can be found in HeadTrash2, available on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble stores.

Control Freak

Control is a particularly insidious form of HeadTrash that we’ve all encountered at some point in life. Whether it’s the rigid rules imposed on us by our parents growing up, a spouse’s insistence that they alone manage the household finances, or a micromanaging boss, being subject to another person’s controlling behavior breeds resentment and conflict.

No wonder the word “control” is often linked with “freak” in popular culture.  We all know these people.  There is the subtle control freak who avoids directly expressing an opinion, preferring to use surrogates to enforce your adherence to their agenda. Think of this type of controller as the puppeteer pulling the strings of the marionette. They may not be on stage, but they’re certainly driving the action.

Then there’s the controlling person who does everything “by-the-book.” They run their business by a specific system and frequently use the phrase “According to…” in order to prove their point by backing it up with either a rule book or an expert in the field. What’s more, they often claim expertise on subjects they’ve read one book about. From parenting to fixing a car, knowledge is actually power for this type of controller.

So how do you handle a person suffering from Control? It can be tough because if they’re in a role where they actually can be controlling, it usually means they are good at what they do. They fully believe in their controlling nature because it has worked well for them thus far. Keep this in mind when confronting them. Expect an outburst or a jump to defense and just remember to be clear, firm and detailed so they get your point. Your goal in dialogue with a controlling individual is to get them to acknowledge how relinquishing control and delegating can be beneficial to both you and them.

Here are some quick tips for dealing with a person suffering from Control:

Disarm with Charm: Begin a challenging conversation with positivity, so you can disarm their natural tendency to be defensive.  Acknowledge some of your own flaws to make your challenge less threatening and place you on a level playing field.  Seek to build trust, which will get them to loosen the reins over time.

Help them Delegate: Ask them to identify tasks that could be handled by others to free up their time for more important things.  Help them limit the amount of projects they take on.  By helping them understand how many things they have on their plate, they’re more likely to pass off tasks to others.

Prepare Rebuttals: Controlling people are prepared with rationales for why they act the way they do. Anticipate what they may say or what they’ve used as excuses in the past and be ready so they can’t manipulate their way out of the conversation.

More tips can be found in HeadTrash2, which is available on Amazon or in select Barnes&Noble stores.

When Others Think They’re Infallible

Sometimes a co-worker or boss suffers from the HeadTrash of Arrogance.  This type of individual may be “often wrong but never in doubt.”  Arrogance is often the easiest form of HeadTrash to identify, as arrogant people — who typically also exhibit narcissistic tendencies — are often the first to admit they are arrogant because they feel entitled. The challenge for Arrogant personalities in leadership roles is that they too often believe in their own infallibility and less in the judgment of others.

They might describe themselves as confident rather than arrogant, but those around them understand the difference.  In business, politics and life, we all know that such behavior can be a recipe for disaster. Left unchecked, Arrogant leaders can become increasingly isolated and distrustful of others. They develop thin skins, lash out when questioned and tend to be autocratic leaders.  They can also wreak havoc on the self-confidence and happiness of those around them.

An example of this is Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who for all his brilliance, was famous for publicly humiliating his subordinates. In more extreme cases, such individuals become relentless and ruthless; their response to critics turns into apparent vengeance. Sound familiar?

Our new book HeadTrash2 (available on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble stores), offers useful tips for responding to this type of HeadTrash, including “don’t take the bait, don’t debate.” We’ve all learned that winning a debate against an Arrogant person is difficult because they will never admit that they are wrong.

When dealing with Arrogant behavior, instead of losing composure and getting worked up by the person’s refusal to back down, try to stay calm and say something like, “Let me finish, you’ll have your chance to speak when I’m done.” Avoid getting in a yelling match that can only lead to an unproductive insult exchange instead of an informative discussion.

Another way to avoid a screaming session is to take a moment and walk away. Arguments can get heated very quickly, so when it gets to a point where both parties are about to say something they regret, call a time out. This gives both sides time to absorb what has been said, and reflect on how to move forward without having a major outburst.

What’s the worst HeadTrash of them all?

Have you ever worked for an organization whose culture is burdened by “analysis paralysis?” Where every task is met with requests for additional research to justify the initiative to someone further up the chain?  Deadlines are missed, discussions are circular and productivity grinds to a halt. The culprit might be the HeadTrash of Insecurity.

Insecurity is one of the hardest types of HeadTrash to identify. It can manifest in many different ways and is easily confused with the other varieties of HeadTrash. For example, when one mixes Anger with Insecurity, it results in a passive-aggressive response that can be confusing and frustrating for both parties. Sometimes Insecurity will cause someone to express their Anger about one topic when they’re actually angry about something completely different, which leads to miscommunication.

Insecurity in a leader can result in resentful and irritated subordinates. Managers who are insecure don’t often praise their subordinates. Always needing to be reassured, the insecure leader will take it upon themselves to claim credit on behalf of their entire staff because he or she lacks confidence in their own abilities.

It also doesn’t help that insecure people don’t take criticism well. Constructive criticism offered as a way to encourage improvement is seen as an attack that says, “You’re not performing well enough.” Instead of taking good advice to heart, the insecure person feels inadequate and gets defensive when any type of critical comment is made.

Our new book HeadTrash2 (available on Amazon and in Barnes&Noble stores) offers tips for dealing with an insecure person. Before offering constructive advice, start with a positive comment that will give a little boost to the person’s self-esteem. Hearing something positive can help soften the blow of the critique that comes after.

How you deliver the message is just as important as what you’re saying. Using soothing tones and a slow cadence can help calm the insecure person because the tone of the conversation is not taken as an attack. The slightest raise of voice volume could set off the defense mechanism of Insecurity so it’s important to be aware of how you deliver the message.

How you communicate to an insecure person is also important. In a world where people too often hide behind their screens, it’s easy to avoid a serious conversation with someone by simply shooting them an email. Try to have difficult conversations in person so that you can read their reaction and begin a true dialogue with them about the issue at hand.

Guilt Trip

One journey we’ve all gone on at one time or another in life is the guilt trip.  It’s a road to perdition that we usually travel unwillingly, driven by a friend, relative or co-worker who manipulates our emotions so that we do their bidding. Falling for this classic HeadTrash behavior more than once is a recipe for a relationship marred by feelings of resentment and anger.

This dynamic seems especially common in families. Parents guilt their children into attending their own alma mater for college because, well, they are the ones paying for it. Or perhaps they impose not-so-subtle pressure on their children to settle nearby after graduating from college, because, “Well, you know, we’re not getting any younger.”

Guilt is also ever-present in the work environment. Poor performers on the job who consistently fail to deliver, reduce overall office productivity and damage morale often stay in their positions because their boss can’t bring themselves to fire them. The issue here isn’t just with the guilt-ridden boss. The slacking employee in this case is the guilt-wielder, and he or she knows exactly what they are doing.

This is the biggest issue with Guilt: it’s a double-edged sword. Both parties involved in the guilt are at fault in some way. It’s common to know people “guilty” of both sides, but there are specific tips that can help you identify someone guilty of the HeadTrash of Guilt.

A guilt-wielding person gives you every reason to feel sorry for them. Whether they always seem to be ill, or short on cash, this person makes you want to pity them. The same can be said for those who say if you don’t do what they want, then horrible things will happen. You feel guilty for something that may happen—but more than likely, will not—as a result of you not complying with what they said.

Take the example of a teenage daughter who falls in love with the $600 prom dress, twice her allotted budget. Using guilt as a weapon, she may argue that settling for a more affordable gown will transform her into a social pariah with her friends, each of whom will be wearing haute couture.

Parents who can’t or won’t confront this behavior may cave in and purchase the dress.  However, by acquiescing to her unreasonable request, they may have unintentionally laid the groundwork for a lifelong relationship marred by regular guilt-ridden demands.  The best approach when faced with a situation like this is to evaluate the reality of what the person is saying and make your decision based on the facts.

As the guilt-ridden person in this situation, one way to refute this type of Guilt is to just say no. Treat the person like you would treat a car salesperson trying to manipulate you into buying a more expensive model.  Be direct, definitive and composed and keep your answer as is: No!

On the other hand, being in the presence of a guilt-ridden person can be just as problematic as a guilt-wielding person. Take the boss who refuses to fire the chronic underperformer. He or she needs to understand what a powerful message they are sending by their inaction. By helping them understand why the workplace will be made stronger by this difficult decision, they can learn to overcome their guilt. Once they recognize that they have the power to remedy the problem, they can usually move forward to make the change and not feel guilty for doing the right thing.

No matter which side of the coin of guilt you may find yourself on, there are plenty of ways to identify and avoid falling victim to the HeadTrash of Guilt. Read more about recognizing and addressing Guilt in our book, HeadTrash2, available online and in select Barnes&Noble stores.

Dealing with the Debilitating Power of Anger

Significant media coverage this election cycle has focused on the angry American voter and why a highly charged political environment is fueling the rise of non-traditional Presidential candidates on both sides of the spectrum. We’ve seen anger at political rallies, debates and even in the language of social media outbursts used by some candidates.

Anger can be a potent emotional life force.  However, left unchecked, it can have a corrosive effect on our everyday lives and even our health.  We’ve all encountered a person in life who is always standing at the precipice of Anger.  Too often we spend our lives tiptoeing around them, or trying to identify and avoid the triggers that might send them off the cliff.

Anger can also manifest in ways other than the stereotypical behaviors of yelling and stomping, such as silence.  It is often linked closely with regret.  Many angry people regret their outbursts; they just can’t seem to extricate themselves from this continuous cycle of anger, followed by regret.

In our recent book, HeadTrash 2, we outline ways to recognize the signs of a person with the HeadTrash of Anger, and then offer tips on communicating and working with this person. Examples include:

1)      Instead of responding defensively to angry outbursts, start to think about how that person may be actually hurting and how you should try to help them.  You would be amazed how less painful that relationship can become.  You can almost start to feel sorry for them in how they are behaving, since you realize they are not working as effectively as they could.

2)      Don’t react in kind.  Instead of getting into a yelling match, let the person know you would prefer to take a “time out” and come back to this discussion once things are less emotional.  Once you re-engage, monitor the language used in conversation. Refrain from using accusatory phrases and instead, turn them into sincere questions that can lead to better communication and understanding where the disagreement came from and how to move forward to fix it.

3)      Understand that people who are frequently angry are seldom confronted for their behavior.  Although it’s not easy to do, addressing the behavior later, once things have settled down, may go a long way toward getting them to stop behaving that way to you and others.

More identifying factors and tips on how to handle an angry person can be found in our new book, HeadTrash2: Dealing with and Overcoming Other People’s Junk, available online at Amazon.

What’s holding you back?

Imagine you’re in a plane flying at 14,000 feet.  You have a parachute strapped on your back and you’ve been properly trained to do your first solo skydive. You’re as ready as can be, but when the cargo bay door opens and the air rushes in, you finally realize what you’re about to do.

Your palms start sweating. Your heart is racing. You can’t catch your breath. You’re thinking a million reasons why you shouldn’t do this, and what even possessed you to get on the plane in the first place.

What’s holding you back? Fear.

Our minds experience fear to avoid endangering our lives, but what happens when that fear takes over and controls every aspect of our life? Fear is the type of HeadTrash that can completely overtake decision making and affect both work and home life.

One of the biggest symptoms of fear can be chronic procrastination– finding any reason not to take a big leap or make a decision that affects other people. As a manager, this can stunt career growth and ultimately hold back an entire team. A leader cannot exist without faithful followers, and the thought of disappointing those people can be exactly what sends that leader spiraling into Fear.

While it can be said that waiting or holding back on something is a sign of caution rather than actual fear, that’s not always the case. It is necessary to be cautious with major decisions, especially when there are major risks and consequences, but someone with the HeadTrash of Fear will hide it by saying they are just proceeding with caution when they’re letting their Fear take full control of their decisions.

This doesn’t mean that being cautious isn’t the right thing to do. Go back to the skydiving example. Just jumping out of a plane without being properly trained would be dangerous and reckless. Before deciding to take this adventure, you would conduct research, take classes and understand the risks involved.

Fear of risks is something that can also affect us on a personal level in the form of avoidance. People with Fear avoid making important decisions because they are scared of making the wrong choice, especially if that decision comes with significant changes. From choosing which college to attend to deciding whether to ask someone to become your spouse, fear of making the wrong choice can paralyze your life.

One way to overcome the fear of decision making is begin by making smaller decisions. Choices like what to make for dinner and when to leave for work can serve as good practice for making bigger ones later.

It makes complete sense for people to experience fear, whether they are contemplating a fall from 14,000-feet or evaluating important business decisions. Overcoming that fear and finding the courage to embrace decisions shows strength and instills trust in others. The power of a confident leader can go a long way, and even more so when the HeadTrash of Fear is no longer an impediment.

HeadTrash 2: Dealing with and Overcoming Other People’s Junk Due Out April 5th

The writers of HeadTrash are back!

Tish Squillaro and Tim Thomas wrote their first book, HeadTrash, as a guide to help people identify their own emotional baggage standing in the way of success. In HeadTrash2, the authors offer tips on how to recognize the same behavior in others, and the best methods for preventing the poor behavior of those around you to get in the way of personal and professional relationships. Whether it’s a boss with a temper or a relative with control issues, understanding others’ HeadTrash can go a long way to resolving issues.

HeadTrash2: Dealing with and Overcoming Other People’s Junk outlines how the seven forms of HeadTrash (anger, arrogance, control, fear, guilt, insecurity and paranoia) can manifest in poor workplace behavior, and how that bad behavior can negatively affect overall employee morale and productivity. These emotions are hard enough to handle when they come from within, but they’re even trickier when you have to manage them coming from someone else.

Their new book is full of ways to spot these negative emotions and tactics for avoiding the ways they can toxify people’s lives at home and in the office. Each chapter focuses on one of the types of HeadTrash, offering readers coping tools such as using humor to diffuse anger, asking control freaks to delegate and drawing boundaries to stop guilt trips. The book includes valuable checklists, assessment quizzes, case studies, anecdotes and identifies signs to watch for in identifying HeadTrash in others.

Tish and Tim are on the frontlines of creating happier and more functional workplaces for their clients, and they want to give readers the chance to learn more about their methods. They bring their experience as business and leadership coaches to this work, and the project represents much of what they cover in the regular consulting seminars they host.

HeadTrash2 will be available Tuesday, April 5th, and can be preordered through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Follow the Facebook and Twitter pages for the latest updates!