June 19, 2024

You’ve Got Two Cheeks. Use Them!

“But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” Matthew 5:39

Some years ago I was involved in an organization with a terrific leader who had a habit of verbally dressing down a subset of direct reports. She said that she couldn’t get these direct reports to do what she needed to fulfill her commitments to her superiors without yelling, but yelling wasn’t creating any lasting change. So certain was she that these people needed her to yell at them that I could not get her to modify her behavior, so I resorted to Plan B.

Plan B wasn’t about changing the leader’s behavior. Instead, I coached the direct reports on “turning the other cheek” and finding ways to agree with her.

This might sound like I was telling them to lie down and give up, but that’s not the case. Biblically, the “turn the other cheek” passage from the Book of Matthew is not, as I understand it, about taking a position of giving up. It suggests that your attacker doesn’t have enough to dissuade you. By passively overlooking the attack, and instead looking beyond the strike to the best interests of everyone, you can change a situation that normally turns out the same way every time.

It’s another Dr. Phil moment. How’s what you’re doin’ workin’ for ya?

When the direct reports began agreeing with their temperamental leader, her Knower/Judger was stunned into submission. Suddenly, there was no emotional satisfaction from being right while they were wrong. They agreed that she was right, so she no longer had to defend herself.

Within a month, the verbal abuse abated. While she would occasionally fall back into the old behavior, the direct reports remained present enough not to get sucked into the game.

Who in your environment routinely tap-dances on your head? Or vice versa—who are you routinely dressing down? Either way, you can use that moment between stimulus and response to make the choice to change the conversation. Your world will change with it. I promise.

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