Sunday, February 4, 2018

Enhancing your ability to roll with the punches


By Terry Ramadhani

        In our professional life we regularly assume, that it is only about what technical competencies we possess. Through this column, I have endeavoured to challenge this position by focusing on other skills and competencies that are not necessarily technical but more tactical to help one navigate the world of work.

When we meet challenges, our first reaction, which truly is from instinct, is to flee or fight; we are programmed to react in this way, as it is a primal response designed for our survival. However, this reaction is beautifully applicable in the case when one has run into a lion or a buffalo or whatever creature of the wild that is threatening our survival in the most basic way i.e. threat to life.

When we meet challenges in the office, this particular response is not necessarily applicable as we cannot keep running away from every challenge we meet nor can we directly fight as it goes against general rules of decorum that we need to be civil and productive in the office environment, therefore we have to adapt and seek other mechanisms or responses.

One such response is the ability to roll with the punches.

Rolling with the punches is an English idiom borrowed from language used in fights especially boxing whereby one would deflect the full force of a blow by being fluid and moving their body into different positions to blunt the impact - Mohammad Ali (pictured) demonstrated this tactic marvellously!

What this means is being able to absorb the shock and hurt that the challenges we face bring with a positive attitude and good cheer. In practical terms one is able to view the particular challenge that is presented in a manner seeking to understand that it is not personal and that it could be beneficial if well exploited.

Mastery of this tactic means that an employee is able to face challenges with a mindset and attitude that allows them to remain on track in terms of goals achievement and the eventual ‘winning the war’. Is it easy to roll with the punches? Absolutely not! But I believe it is attainable because in principle what we aspire and set our minds to learn, we can do, and with practice we get better and thrive. I thought I would share with you my dear reader some tactics that help one develop the tenacity to roll with the punches;

1. A flexible and adaptable state of mind – this requires one to develop openness of mind and stepping out of rigid frameworks by considering the possibility that it is possible to respond to situations differently

2. Avoiding the temptations of getting even – they say revenge is a dish best served cold. In essence though we may really enjoy seeing those that offend us pay the price, one should desist allowing the mind to dwell on ways to revenge and focus that energy towards proving they are up to the task.

3. Establishing what the end game is. In the heat of a challenge one has to ask themselves questions. It is said that institutions and indeed people are only as good as the quality of questions asked. Some good question one might consider asking in the pursuit of establishing what the appropriate response is could be: “How does this particular challenge bring me closer to my end goals?’ ‘What lessons can I draw from this current challenge that I could add to my arsenal so to speak, to counter future challenges?’

4. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes for a moment and try to understand what the challenge they present looks like through their eyes. You may find that they may have reason for their behaviour or actions towards you. This kind of reflection may bring home truths that serve as clues to the remedies needed.

5. Finally if none of the above tips work, try to remember not to take things personally. It is true that often times when faced with challenges we feel like the whole world is against us, like we are fighting an insurmountable battle, that we are always being wronged, undermined, mistreated or disrespected. Whichever sentiment we experience when we are faced with the challenge at hand, try not to take it personally.

The end game ultimately will hinge on how much of what you set out to achieve has been achieved. Failing to reach our goals need not be as a result of our inability to roll with the punches.

Ms Terry Ramadhani is a senior manager in the Human Resources Department, East Africa Aga Khan University