We have all been there. You have had a productive week, and you are catching your breath and refreshing your coffee when a coworker enters the break room, and the quack attack begins. Why did you…? Who do you think you are…? What were you thinking…? How come you…? Have you ever considered…? When are you going to…? Suddenly, all the satisfaction you have felt from a well-done week disappears. You can feel the air being let out of your emotional balloon. Here are some tips for surviving the dreaded yet inevitable quack attack:
In moments like these, my fight-or-flight instincts kick in. I become very defensive; I feel like I have to defend myself. We normally have two options:
- 1) FIGHT – When we fight, we generally add more fuel to the fire, and the quacking gets louder.
- 2) FLIGHT – When we run, we open up a host of questions, making people wonder why we ran; thus, more quacking ensues.
In recent years, sociologists have discovered a third response:
- 3) FREEZE! This is my largest area of personal growth that has challenged me over the last few years. Instead of fighting and making the issue worse or running and creating lots of questions, I have worked diligently on freezing. Simply stop talking. I try to let the situation play out.
U.NDERSTAND THE REAL ISSUE
I have often heard that “the issue is never the issue.” I was startled when people completely unloaded on me and stormed out of the room. I would sit there, wondering what had just happened. I often would find out a week or two later that that person was in a personal crisis or other situation. That person could not control what was happening in their life then, but they felt they could control what was happening on a leadership level. By quitting talking and listening many times, you can get to the root issue that is genuinely causing this person to quack.
A.NSWER WITH FACTS, NOT EMOTIONS
When I was pastoring, I started sending out a monthly newsletter. In the newsletter, I would list all the good things happening in the church and community. This letter sheltered me from many quack attacks. I remember one specific situation where a man came into my office, and before even saying hello, he began by saying that “nothing” positive was happening in the church. He then went on to list five reasons I was doing a terrible job. I remember simply getting up from my desk, walking over to a bookshelf with several extra newsletters, coming around to his side of the desk, sitting down next to him, and reading the newsletter to him.
Nearly every point he made was listed in the newsletter. For example, he stated, “Our attendance is at the lowest it’s been in a decade.” I responded, “Actually, right here, we have documented that our attendance has been on a steep increase over the last four years.” Again he retorted, “Well, you only use certain people.” Again, I could say, “Here is a list of the volunteers over the last month, 25% of our overall attendance.”
By countering with readily available facts, I could avoid an emotional response. After we finished reading the newsletter, I sat there quietly, and by that time, he had calmed down, acknowledged the newsletter, and said, “I do realize good things are happening, I just feel like….”
Feelings will betray you. 1 John 3:20 says, “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.” To prevent quacking, you have to stay grounded in facts and not feelings.
Second personal admission; I am a very tightly wound individual. I always have been. My father always has been. It is all I’ve known. After one severe and detrimental quack attack, leaders in my life strongly suggested that I must reach out for help.
I began seeing a therapist, and through my ongoing training, I have learned techniques to help me calm down. Some of the strategies I’ve learned include:
1) BREATHING – I know this sounds cliche, but it is beneficial. Scott Dehorty, LCSW-C, of Delphi Behavioral Health says, “Breathing is the number one and most effective technique for reducing anger and anxiety quickly.” Dehorty informs us that taking long, deep calming breaths disrupts the fight-or-flight loop and helps you calm down.
2) CHALLENGE YOUR THOUGHTS – Part of being anxious or angry is having irrational thoughts that don’t necessarily make sense. These thoughts are often the “worse-case scenario.” When you experience one of these thoughts, stop and ask yourself the following questions:
– Is this likely to happen?
– Is this a rational thought?
– Has this ever happened to me before?
3) WRITE IT DOWN – If you’re too angry or anxious to talk about it, grab a journal and write out your thoughts. Don’t worry about complete sentences or punctuation — just write. Writing helps you get negative thoughts out of your head.
K.EEP, THE MAIN THING, THE MAIN THING
When you are under a quack attack, it is simple to get historical with the person that you are talking to. That was not a typo; I intended to write historical, not hysterical.
Becoming historical means that you bring up every flaw that the person has that you’re talking to. Every mistake, every frustration, you simply get lost in the weeds of your emotions and bring up every piece of evidence you can imagine in order to “win” the argument. However, “winning” is not the chief issue here. Your goal must be to come to a peaceful solution, be able to continue to work, and do life together. That is why it is important to keep the main thing – the relationship you have with the person – the main thing.
We will never eliminate the quacking ducks as long as we deal with humanity. However, we can use strategies to improve how we respond to the quacking.