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What would you do if you were working with a peer who refused to get up from their desk, or leave their office, to engage with you on a project?

There are a number of possible reasons for this behaviour:

  • They may be genuinely unaware they are causing tension.
  • They may be takers. [1]
  • They may be narcissistic.
  • They may be trying to control this aspect of their lives because they feel out of control in others.
  • There may be a combination of two or more of the factors above, or it may be something we have not considered. [2]

In these situations it can be tempting, and indeed natural, to consider the behaviour of our peer [3] as a personal attack. It may be. Or it may not.

When we feel attacked, however, we engage in our own version of fight or flight behaviour. We may become stubborn, lash out or start to avoid our protagonist, which may not help us achieve the desired outcome. Our thinking may not lead to useful behaviour. For more thoughts on this check out my blog on the characters we create for ourselves.

To change our behaviour, then, we need to change our thinking. Here are two possible ways:

  • Think about what you are trying to achieve. If you focus on the mission or the outcome, then the behaviour of your peer seems less important. It becomes just another aspect you need to deal with to complete the task.
  • Think about how you want to be. Understanding how you want to be will give you insight into how you could behave in these situations:
    • If you want to be courageous then you may raise your peer’s behaviour with them.
    • If you want to be curious, you may seek to understand why they are behaving the way they are.
    • If you want to be patient, you may decide to wait and see what happens.

A combination of these two thinking styles can help you take the focus off protecting yourself, which can limit and narrow your options. You may then be able to see opportunities for how you could handle the situation differently.


[1] For more on Takers see Adam Grant’s book, Give and Take.

[2] We never really know what people are thinking. We can make assumptions based on what we see in their behaviour, but we have to be prepared to be wrong.

[3] Or friend, or partner or … insert person here.