While I wouldn’t wish a difficult person on anyone else, I believe that they, like every other challenging situation, show up to teach us something. It’s on us to look for that opportunity that’s wrapped up inside every fraught interaction. And today’s episode is designed to help you do that.
In my coaching training, I learned about the principle called, you spot it, you got it. It means that anytime you notice something in someone else that drives you crazy. It is highlighting some trait you share that you don’t like very much.
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How To Recognize ‘You Spot It, You Got It” In Your Own Life
Maybe you have a controlling mother or mother-in-law, and her every comment sets your teeth on edge. She may legitimately be an overbearing person who regularly oversteps her boundaries. To be clear, I am not here to excuse her behavior–and we will talk about setting boundaries later in the week. But we don’t have control over other people’s behaviors, only our own reactions to their behaviors.
And it is very helpful to know why you have the reaction you do. In this case, your reaction to her could be indicative of the fact that you, too, like to drive the bus. That is not a bad thing, particularly when it comes to your own life or your children’s lives. It’s called autonomy. In the workplace, it’s also called leadership. But since women often still aren’t encouraged to embrace their autonomy and their leadership skills, perhaps this isn’t something you’re proud of. So it’s easier to vilify it in her than it is to acknowledge it in yourself.
There’s a flip side to you spot it, you got it…
which is you spot it, you DON’T got it. Which means that person may be displaying a trait that you’ve got a belief is bad in some way, and you would never let yourself do that thing. Maybe you really are driven crazy by people who refuse to wear a mask. And while there are many valid reasons to feel that way, like, why not do everything we can to hinder the spread of this airborne virus? Maybe there’s also a little tinge of wishing you didn’t feel afraid of catching COVID-19.
I’m not excusing anyone’s bad behavior because it reflects something in you. I’m just saying that difficult people aren’t here solely to drive us crazy. They can also illuminate a dark corner in our attic if we are brave enough to take a look.
I’ve shared the story before of how I used to judge women who drove fancy cars and wore fancy sunglasses. So basically every time I went to the grocery store I was annoyed before I even got out of the parking lot and into the store because there was always someone rolling up in a Mercedes or BMW and pulling into a spot right up front. (I admit it, I shop at Whole Foods. There, I said it!)
See, in my mind, I had built a belief that rich people were jerks, and here was proof! I was right! In this instance, they weren’t behaving badly, they just had an air of smugness that rubbed me all sorts of wrong. When I learned about you spot it, you don’t got it, it really helped me see and then unspool this idea I had that rich people were jerks.
Raise An Awareness On The Folks That Drive You Crazy
Because I believed it was ‘bad’ to be rich, I judged rich people, especially rich women, because they were living out something I had told myself it was not OK to be. When the truth was, deep down, I wanted to have more money than I needed to make it through to the end of the month. I wanted to have extra money to burn on something luxurious. Having this realization that being rich was something I’d deemed as bad, I could look back at my job history and see that every time I got promoted to the point where I started earning more money than I technically needed, I would quit that job, and go start something new where I was basically starting over at the bottom.
Every. Single. Time! Huh. That was interesting.
Since then, I’ve dropped a lot of my resistance to earning more and guess what? My income has increased. Of course, I had to put myself out there for higher paying gigs and actually do the work, but it all started because I learned of this concept and then took a look at what might be behind my annoyance.
Raising your awareness on why the folks who drive you crazy have such an effect on you isn’t immediate, like flipping a switch. But it helps you drop some resistance that you’ve probably been carrying around for a long, long time. It’s like setting down a big rock you’ve toting around for the last 20 years. Paradoxically, often just accepting something–in this case, something about yourself–that you’ve been resisting helps that thing change all on its own.
I realize this is all kind of theoretical and hard to stick a fork in.
Daily Tiny Assignment
So your tiny assignment should help you put this idea into practice. Write down the question: The person or people who really drive me crazy is… And then write down whoever comes to mind. And then for each person or type of person you put down, do some writing about why they drive you so nuts. Don’t edit yourself, don’t hold back. Once you’re done, look at what you’ve written and ask yourself if there is anything in there that either sounds familiar, or sounds secretly appealing to you.
Acknowledging the things in yourself that you judge in other people doesn’t mean you need to turn into a difficult person yourself. It’s only here to show you that there’s some aspect of yourself that would like to be acknowledged. It’s the parts of ourselves that we don’t acknowledge that go underground and get weird. When we bring them into the light, they can grow into something positive.
For more on this theme, tomorrow I’m interviewing Amy Gallo, author of the HBR Guide to Managing Conflict about the gifts of conflict–which was the subject of her fabulous Ted talk. Come on back for that!