Disrupting the Disruptor: 7 Tips for Managing Chaos at Work or at Home

A disruption is a radical change in a process that causes something to not work in the normal way. It can be a business model, technology, a country or a person. No one or thing is immune from it.

It sucks to be disrupted.

When was the last time it happened to you?

Mine was a year and a half ago and came in the form of an attorney. I’ll call him ‘Mr. Scorched Earth.’  Every position he took was extreme. He’d act as if he was willing to compromise, and then would not. He accused me of being unreasonable. He’d push every issue to the brink.

Each time I’d interact with him I’d walk away feeling like a shaken can of soda. You can’t see the pressure built-up from the outside so you have zero clues that it can’t be safely opened. And when you do? Well … stand back … it’s going to go everywhere.

At first I thought I could reason with him. Was I wrong. When that didn’t work, I got mad. I could feel my blood pressure rise, increased anxiety and loathing thinking about having to interact with him. Have you had to deal with a person like that?

I’d talk to other attorneys about how unreasonable he was. While that helped, after a while I sounded like a broken record — to myself.

Here’s what being disrupted looks like for me:

  1. I seek validation. I want to talk with similarly situated friends, even strangers who’ll agree with me and help me see myself as NOT crazy. I want a rational logical answer to what appears to be insanity.    
  2. I see myself on the side of ‘right.’ I spend a lot of time thinking about why I’m right and the other side is so wrong.
  3. I want to put things back the way they were. I’m on a search and destroy mission — searching for explanations as to why it happened so I can dismantle each reason one by one and ‘fix’ the situation.
  4. I get caught in the emotional spin cycle. The bigger the disruption the more frustrated and confused I feel. The more I find myself preoccupied with what’s happening. The harder it is to stop ruminating on what’s happening.

What’s so maddening is I can’t make the disrupter go away — that’s the nature of it. I’m powerless to literally stop the situation or the person behind it. The disruptor is a fact.

The truth is there are lots of ways to deal with the internal effects.

Here are seven general guidelines to deal with a disruption:

  1. Identify the disruption. Is it a person, a group or a thing? It’s not always easy to spot. It can take time to figure out the actual culprit.
  2. Recognizing the emotional spin cycle. For me it’s a preoccupation with the negative emotions I’m experiencing. It’s so easy to find myself being unaware of what’s happening in my own mind. It requires a higher level of self awareness on my part.
  3. Minimize exposure to the disruption — both externally and internally. The more I think about it or am around it, the more I’m … well… disrupted.
  4. Remind yourself that your feelings of anger, frustration, and confusion are understandable. Don’t make things worse by getting mad at your reactions. Judging myself seldom leads me down a positive path.
  5. (Here’s the hardest part for me) Don’t dehumanize the disruption. They are just stupid; They don’t know what they are doing; They are clearly idiots;  is a partial list how I find myself thinking about the disruptor.
  6. Remember all the good in your life. The bigger the disruption the harder it is for me to see the positive that’s in fact happening, which leads the continuation of the emotional spin cycle and magnifying the magnitude of the disruption. It’s not good. I don’t like it. It’s also not the end of the world.
  7. Search out positive actions to take. The less I do the more it contributes of feeling powerless. There is always something positive we can do — even if it’s simply introducing a new thought. Taking proactive steps is an empowering counter measure to negative thoughts and perceptions.

These steps will not make the disruptor go away, but they will help you take care of yourself so you can proactively and positively move forward when surrounded by chaos.

I’d like to tell you that I was able to somehow make Mr. Scorched Earth go way. I couldn’t. I can tell you that the longer I interacted with him the better I understood my disruption — which shortened the spin cycle and allowed me to respond from a more centered place.

How do you deal with being disrupted?

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