Work can be stressful, but sometimes we overreact to even a mild correction or critique with excessive defensiveness, even outrage. (Tweet it!) Why? Our brain wiring may be part of the answer.
The human brain is wired for pattern recognition, and we interpret the present in terms of past experience. If the person criticizing us reminds us of someone from our past with whom we had a difficult relationship, we can reach into our “relationship data bank” and dredge up what Sigmund Freud called a transference – meaning we actually transpose our feeling about one person onto another.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, executive coaches Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries and Katharina Balacz, advise that anyone who notices they may be overly sensitive at work should ask themselves these questions:
While our unconscious transference reactions can cause overreactions, becoming aware of them can help us modulate our responses, avoid repeating mistakes and be more in control of outcomes.
Have you ever overreacted at work, perhaps multiple times with the same person? Do you think there is a chance this person reminds you of someone with whom you had a complex and difficult relationship in the past? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
If you would like to read more about creating a habit around masterful communication, check out our book: Be Quiet, Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion