Fight or Flight: The Fine Line Between Taking and Talking Back

177800017Recently, I ran into a difficult experience. I was writing an article and approached it from an opinion my superior did not agree with.

First, I was shocked. I was annoyed because, like a true McGillian, I didn’t want to be wrong. On the other-hand, I began second-guessing myself and launched into a spiral of creative self-doubt.

I’ve written about criticism before and this isn’t wholly dissimilar. What do you do when you feel challenged? When is it the right decision to take the heat or to stand your ground?

In my case, it was a lot of back and forth. I was debating a social issue that was important to me and my superior believed that I failed to be critical enough. Regardless of this, I thought that the overarching moral message was more important than the brass tax of an institution. We reached a fair compromise, but not without some frustration on my part. I was intimidated by the situation and respected my superior- but didn’t want to sacrifice my own point of view.

The result? A good amount of give and take.

I think that what came out of it was the best possible product. I was forced to argue for my stance, accept change where change was due, challenge my opinion from a different angle and make something much more well-rounded on my terms.

Of course, this isn’t always the case. I went through a lot of stress during those first 24 hours, when I didn’t know whether or not to make a big deal about it. It’s entirely situational. Some say it’s better to show ‘em what you’re made of and others suggest taking a high road. It’s all in your nature and completely up to you- but…

Here are some steps I took that helped me open my mind and, at the same time, dig my heels in:

  1. Ask for clarification. It seems obvious, I know, but misunderstandings are more common than not. Give the other party (boss, coworker, friend, parent or otherwise) a fair chance to fully and totally explain. Swallow your pride, take it in, and really get into their shoes. Try to understand the reasoning for their perspective and wrap your mind around it. Go the extra mile and continue asking to see a better picture of what it is they’re saying.
  2. Ask everyone else. Within reasonable restraints (don’t spread gossip or complaints), consult a select variety of people close to you that will tell you what you need to hear– not just what you want to hear.
  3. Make some changes. Edit. Revise. Switch it up. Don’t change for the sake of something else- reassess the issue/work the way you would any other time. Accept some shortcomings and embrace some critical concepts.
  4.  “Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth” – Homer. Think about the conflict and the argument on even ground. Weigh the costs of being wrong and the rewards of being right. But overall, think of the issue/work before anything else. It’s all about creating the most valuable, conscious, fair and worthwhile solution possible and seeing where you stand in making that happen.

This article by FORTE helps go into the instinctual Fight or Flight response with work conflict. In short- take a breath.

In reality, this is a totally natural part of shaping your views and balancing some confidence with some humility. There isn’t any sure-fire perfect way to resolve these kinds of conflicts- but as you grow and your experience develops, it’ll just become a regular part of the work grind!

Deanna is a student, writer and editor originally from Toronto but currently exploring Montreal. She works in administration, fashion, publishing and journalism with a deep desire to ask questions and record stories. She’s passionate about used books, good tea and sharing her adventures throughout the city. 
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