An Ode to Dealing with Tough Managers

Photo by Jonathan Borba

Recently, I posted being concerned about my performance appraisal this year as the previous ones did not go well. I have some news to share – I finally got good feedback! This is a reason to celebrate, as my head was clouded with self-doubt over the past year, and I questioned my work quality. “This is the only type of work I believed I was good at. Am I not as good as I think?

When managers take time to appreciate your work, your confidence hits a different level. It’s the type of reassurance every hard-working employee deserves.

Needless to say, I am over the moon. If you had gone through my past appraisal posts, you would know how distraught I was. I gave it my best this year and wondered if it would be enough as my confidence was quite shaken. But it ended well (this year, at least). Now, the challenge is to maintain this level of performance.

I am not exactly sure what I did right this year, but I am sharing one key takeaway.

I know the internet is filled with advice on avoiding interacting with difficult managers as much as possible. I did this initially. I was intimidated by my managers and found it challenging to reach out to them. They weren’t particularly friendly either. So my solution was to avoid them. My advice is: don’t.

Try increasing your interactions with them to a point you no longer feel intimidated by their presence. I started asking questions regularly, reaching out for discussions, and becoming more proactive. Initially, it felt tough, as anyone would feel uncomfortable interacting with someone who intimidates them. But then, things started getting better. My fear was gone as I trained myself to approach them more. This helped me ask better questions and seek their help if needed. This, in turn, improved my work.

I realized they weren’t criticizing me on purpose. I did lag in some areas. When you are only given negative feedback, your first impulse is to escape. I almost thought about quitting, thinking maybe they disliked me for other reasons.

At this point, I can’t help but think how many employees must have quit their jobs because they couldn’t take criticism. We see posts about “work where you will be appreciated.” Sometimes, we need to take time to reflect on whether it is really them who should work on appreciating us or if it is actually us who need to make improvements.

Yes, some managers will not like you or your work, no matter how hard you try. You need to change your job for peace of mind in such cases. But often, that’s not the issue. Sometimes we overthink and overanalyze things and make decisions on the spur of the moment. Like quitting. When we quit, we stop ourselves from learning from our mistakes.

Learning only happens when someone points out the areas you need to improve. Some managers communicate this empathetically and effectively, but some might take a different route.

Not every manager excels at communication. As long as a supervisor doesn’t abuse or resort to toxic, manipulative techniques, employees should reflect on what is needed, reach out, ask questions, and work accordingly.

An Ode to Ignoring Toxic People

Photo by Pixabay

We are often told that communication is key.

People advocate the importance of openly sharing your feelings with your partners and friends, thoughts with colleagues, and so on. That’s absolutely true. You should. But what they don’t tell you is that sometimes, communication does absolutely nothing.

You can talk all you want, but your effort is lost if the other person is not ready to listen.

Communication can be key. But with the right people.

Try talking it out with a toxic person – someone who wants absolute control over the situation. They might demean and insult you for sharing your thoughts. What do we do then? Should we communicate more? Will that lead to better results? Sometimes, maturity is cutting off such people from your lives without lengthy dialogues when you realize things will not improve by talking.

It is not popular advice – to ignore. But it has its powers. Ignorance is indeed bliss when you know talking will not yield fruitful results. You can save yourselves from getting hurt when you choose to ignore. I sure did not believe in the power of quiet when I was in my 20s. I ardently believed each and every problem could be resolved by talking. In the process, I bared my soul, talking about my insecurities, frights, and pain with people who did not deserve my empathy or trust. I over-communicated in the hope that they would be more kind once they understood what I was going through. Some ended up using that private information against me. A piece of advice – unless you are absolutely confident about your relationship with this other person, do not be vulnerable and reveal your negatives. They just might misuse it. Communication is key. Again, with the right people.

When you ignore toxic people, you take away their right to infuriate you further. You are making them lose control over you. You are suffocating them because they are satisfied only when you retort. They want you to be affected by what they say. These are the people to watch out for and consciously avoid interacting with. You are not liable to hold any sort of communication with them. You end up saving precious energy this way and can divert it toward more productive interactions.

With experience, you know who such people are and how much effort you are willing to spend on them. You start to understand when things get “too much,” and you eventually start holding back. It’s something, unfortunately, that the 20s won’t teach you. We don’t learn unless we experience the same thing multiple times because it’s by rote that lessons get drilled into our brains. You experience similar people again and again till you learn how to deal with them in the future – that’s the way of life. No amount of advice or posts (like this one) will stop someone from thinking or acting how they want. Only experience can help you – it’s the best teacher, after all.

Being a Loner in an Extroverted World

Photo by RF._.studio

I have always been a private person, much to the chagrin of my friends.

In distress, as far as possible, I prefer to process my situation without involving a second person. Venting and ranting bring relief to many, but I regain my composure by pondering over my issues – the ifs, buts, and whys. Of course, this is not always healthy because I end up bottling my emotions and eventually bursting like a volcano.

I have lost friends or faced misunderstandings because people could not understand my introversion. I was never rude to anyone, but I simply could not find the energy to pick up the phone and keep in touch. This would upset those who expected more from me and wished to be in sync with my private life. Being a single woman, everyone is curious to know whom I’m dating, why I’m dating him, and what my future plans are with him. I find this intrusive, even if well-intentioned. Maybe I have no future plans with him, but would they understand that? Mostly no. To add to that, I never found the need to discuss my life events, scrutinize them, or share every little info with friends. I find the process exhausting and find it difficult to manage many friends as I get older. I am good as long as I have one listening, non-judging ear. Yes, even we loners wish to be heard sometimes.

In friendship, I realize that communicating regularly helps build a deep connection. This is why extroverts have many close friends. Keeping in touch comes naturally to them. The more friends they have and the more socializing they do, the more fulfilled they feel. Loners, like me, prefer to have that one good friend, with whom we can talk without restraint. We want to invest our energy wisely without draining out. This may give us an impression of aloofness as we are not actively seeking new friends.

What I find uncomfortable about discussing my life is that most would expect a follow-up story. If timely updates are not shared, questions arise. It is why numerous anonymous posts asking for advice are seen on Reddit. There are issues you are wary of telling your friends and family, no matter how close you are to them. You want to talk about them, but without the responsibility of being answerable to anyone in the future. I don’t have a problem sharing my life events, but it’s the questions thereafter I have an issue with – because you never know when they will stop.

My hesitation is not entirely inherent. I cannot put the whole blame on nature. It is part contrived as well. Experience has taught me that some things are better left unspoken. Recently, I let go of my inhibitions and, in a state of vulnerability, told a few friends at a party about my brother-in-law’s infidelity. I was feeling disoriented and needed someone to confide in desperately. I regret it now because what I did in the process of revealing something private was enable my friends to openly judge my sibling’s life, probably till the end of time. My brother-in-law and sister sorted out their problems, but the judgments did not stop. It is difficult to forgive and forget a terrible event in your life when there’s someone constantly reminding you about it. “My brother-in-law took my sister out for dinner.” “Oh, is it? (smirks and eye-rolling ensue)“. After facing the judgments, you hesitate to share your issues if you know there’s a remote chance that the situation might improve later. And what happens when you stop talking about such intimate parts of your life? Friendships become stale.

Self-reliance can be a boon as it teaches you to be independent, but it’s a bane if you wish to establish a solid network. I love to keep to myself most of the time but also love sharing ideas. These conflicting interests can prove overwhelming at times.

I sometimes envy extroverts. They come fully equipped into a world exclusively built for them. While they start life from ground zero, introverts have to start from minus 10. Introverts reach ground zero sometime later in life when they begin to understand the art of faking extroversion. Being an introvert, socializing never came easy. I have now learned to put up a façade of extroversion to please the people I love and work with, but I end up exhausted by the end of the day. I would wait to get back home and be myself. Finding a partner, who gets my true self, is difficult. They usually fall for the extroverted side I reserve for the world and back off as soon as they learn I am not all that. I have been called “weird” for not liking parties and being quiet. But now I am in a space where I get the solitude I need and a partner who is comfortable with my solitude.

According to Susan Cain’s Quiet, most introverts develop this dual personality to keep up with the extroverted world around them. Society expects them to be outgoing, jovial, and giving – such energy consumers for the quiet. It might be impossible for an extrovert to understand how much energy goes into socializing because mingling comes naturally to them. When the whole world is geared towards extroversion in all forms of life, an introvert has no choice but to conform and act as if they fit right in.

Dealing with Annoying Questions When You’re Single

Photo by Karolina Grabowska

It’s not easy being a single woman in India.

Everyone is out to advise you on how you should live your life. One hot topic is marriage. The marriage “advisors” (could range from your parents to your friendly neighborhood milk delivery guy) might fight every day with their partners but will not skip a beat to lecture the singles about the benefits of holy matrimony and how much happiness it brings. Outside of their public rants and frustrations involving their better half, there might be a peaceful paradise that they guard secretly, so I would give them the benefit of the doubt and take their word for it. But marriage is not for everyone. I had to get in one to realize it was not for me.

Many in India succumb to arranged marriages because of pressure from family, friends, neighbors, colleagues – almost everyone. I had once faced it. I couldn’t take the pressure and ended up getting married. The relationship suffered from incompatibility issues, and divorce was the best option.

It is a hopeless place – being the epicenter of parental pressure. It can break even those with nerves of steel. It’s not wrong to say that not every Indian gets the chance to experience intimate love because they are forced into marriage before they are ready. It becomes a compromise of sorts where each partner partakes in responsibilities and demands that society expects them to fulfill in the name of love. In between all the cacophony of the daily routine, intimacy loses its way. Life in itself becomes time-tabled because you have things to do and mouths to feed. Where is the time for love in an Indian household?

So how can someone get past this pressure and live peacefully in India as a single person? How to say no to marriage?

Here are some ways you can deal with insufferable questions:

  1. Whenever someone starts with their unsolicited advice, don’t take it with a smile. It is imperative to make your point clear – that you are not looking for unwanted advice.
  2. If no one understands you, move out and reduce contact. This is a harsh step, but if your freedom is important to you, unfortunately, it is the only way. Not everyone can step away as it requires some emotional and financial stability.
  3. Make peace with the idea that you will be emotionally blackmailed by everyone around you. It will never stop, even if you relocate because you can still be contacted via phone calls or WhatsApp. You can only hope they will get used to your way of life one day. In my case, people got fed up with talking to me about topics I am not interested in – like marriage. No one irritates me anymore with the “when are you getting married?” questions. However, it took a divorce for people to leave me alone.

In India, regrettably, most people give in to pressure. They do not wish to offend or disappoint their loved ones. This is understandable, but it also means giving away your freedom of choice to someone. You cannot have it all in India. You’ll have to choose one – your freedom or keeping your loved ones happy.

As a single woman, it was not easy to reach the “other side.” It was like a bumpy adventure with its own blocks and complications. It takes mental strength to go against the norm and stick with it. It is not easy but definitely not impossible.