Henry has been summoned to the office of his department head, Aaron, and he has a foreboding feeling that it’s about his failure to come clean and report his minor accident. Worse, he’s new on the job and just completed extensive safety training. Henry knew what he was supposed to do.
This article is one in a series about the workplace. You can find the first article in the series here.
Instead, Henry had listened to Bill, a long-time worker, who told him not to report. It was appealing; he’d avoid being the new guy who had an accident while still wet behind the ears. So he’d taken the easy way out, and he’s been found out.
Remember in Choice Theory/Reality Therapy, behaviour is seen as “total behaviour.” That is, behaviour is not just what you are doing, but also what you are thinking, feeling, and what’s happening with your physiology.
As Henry waits for Aaron to get off the phone and begin what is surely going to be an unpleasant encounter, he has the opportunity to assess those four parts of his total behaviour.
First, it’s easy for Henry to figure out what his physiology is doing. His palms are sweating, his hands are shaky, and he can hear his heart pounding in his ears.
Now, Henry considers what he’s feeling. He’s anxious, worried about the consequences for his future. Dr. Glasser might put it, “Henry is ‘anxietying.’” Henry can identify other feelings, too: embarrassment, discomfort, and guilt.
What’s Henry thinking? His mind races ahead to what Aaron might say and what the consequences might be. What if he gets fired? Has he already ruined his opportunities with this company forever? Why, oh why, did he ever listen to Bill?
What’s Henry doing? He’s sitting in front of Aaron’s desk, foot tapping a mile a minute, rubbing his sweaty palms on his pants.
Those four aspects sum up Henry’s total behaviour. How could knowing Choice Theory help Henry while he waits?
If Henry lets his frantic physiology and nervous feelings take charge of his creative thinking, his impulse might be to blurt out excuses: “It wasn’t my fault; I was going to report, but ‘someone’ told me not to.” Or, “I was trying to do the company a favour.”
According to Reality Therapy, you have more direct control over “doing” and “thinking” than you have over feelings and physiology. Can Henry deliberately change his doing and thinking behaviours enough to calm his physiology and feelings so he can respond to Aaron in a more effective way?
First, what can Henry do? He can’t get up and walk around. However, he can choose to stop tapping his foot, and start systematically flexing and relaxing his muscles. (Not visibly, obviously!) Concentrating on doing something, rather than allowing his feelings to run the show, helps right away.
What about thinking? Henry can assess his options. He can’t change the past, but he can choose what he says now. What would you suggest as an effective way for Henry to discuss what happened?
The next article in this series is here.