Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur the collaborators are his.
He could see it in her eyes. I scared her to the point of trembling. At the time, I didn’t care. I didn’t apologize. But a week after the incident, the guilt of the pain I caused began to surface and I knew changes had to be made.
This wasn’t the first time my aggressive, combative communication style had killed a relationship. It was a toxic behavior pattern, which I was repeating too many times to count, and which was affecting my life both personally and professionally.
It wasn’t just the toxic words that came out of my mouth, but the accumulated rage and rage that I unleashed that was very problematic. He would also use manipulation to twist the words of others and make them feel bad. Classical narcissism was at stake and in excess during those moments.
Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Avoid a Toxic Work Culture
The truth? I couldn’t stand what they were telling me because if I had to admit she was right, I would question my identity. He was exposing the truth of who he was: insecure. And that seemed like hell to my ego.
It marked a critical turning point: an experience that forced me to reflect on my mindset. I could continue on this path of destruction and pain as I continue to hurt people or make a greater commitment to change who I was and how I felt about myself. The latter would lead me to the happy and healthy relationships I have always wanted.
The problem was that I didn’t know the steps like. How is healthy communication under pressure? All he had ever known was to use anger and aggression to win an argument and be right. It was time to unleash these toxic traits.
Related: 11 Bad Personality Traits That Cost You Business
Healing the wounded businessman
Although I had already worked for my personal development, I had not fully committed to facing the challenge head on. At the time, I was aware of my unhealthy communication style, but I didn’t know the cause. This meant digging a little deeper to find out what exactly was causing these toxic traits.
I discovered that the conversations had provoked a fearful response to the events of my past, scenarios that left me hurt by those I cared about most. My feelings of “this is not good enough” were from moments of my childhood. What should have been quiet, balanced conversations put me in a total defense mode that changed my emotions and supported me. Instead of responding with the same serenity as the other person, I responded like a child who had been hurt or a demanding teenager who didn’t get everything he wanted. Immaturity in difficult times was my way of being.
The latter was especially problematic because what should have been a healthy conversation turned into a heated discussion and nothing would be resolved. More tension and eggshells arose, and relationships broke down because I became unapproachable and instilled fear in others. My lack of apology was a “punishment” for others, an act of my ego to protect itself once again. My inability to take responsibility prevented me from transforming, which was my ultimate blind spot.
Reduction of reaction in response
Each of us has a different way of reacting to or responding to events, which are conditioned by a number of factors. I found that the following had the most significant impact on communicating with my clients.
- Mood at that time: For example, if a stressful situation occurs before a conversation, it can greatly affect the way you communicate.
- Unhealed events of the past: Emotional traumas such as bullying or abuse, betrayal, and loss can also affect the way we relate to others.
- Beliefs and values: What is happening and our level of passion for these topics can dictate how a conversation might go.
- Self-knowledge: Your general level of awareness and self-awareness can affect the way you communicate.
The change from an unconscious reaction to a conscious response does not happen overnight. I had to constantly work over time on things like daily meditation, which I increased in duration and found more impactful.
I also had to start realizing that not everyone was a threat and why it was like that through coaching, which meant opening up about what happened to me. I began to understand what happened to me in the past and the beliefs it carried with me because of those events. Those ah-ha moments were the advances that changed me.
Related: How a childhood incident created their unhealthy drive for success
As a result of these interventions, I had to acknowledge and admit that what I was doing was not right the next time it happened. This meant a vulnerability, which I felt was a weakness at the time. But when I learned that it would really help me get what I and the others needed: connection, this encouraged massive change.
Eventually, removing alcohol and substances from my life was huge because the toxicity was still in my body for days, and that made me irritated. They fueled depression, which reduced my confidence, and the lack of real self-confidence was another challenge.
Related: What can this entrepreneur’s emotional journey teach you about growth and success
When we know who we are with confidence, we can communicate in a healthy way. When we struggle to own ourselves, the words we utter reflect this confusion, so we try not to let others expose this truth.
My leadership went from fighting to connecting to engaging in very emotional conversations that would once provoke me to fight or go out on bail. I became more and more aware of the feelings within me and, thanks to this awareness, I was able to better manage my feelings and how I respond.