I’ve been watching a new reality show on the SyFy TV channel called “Monster Man”. It’s about a family who work together creating monsters for Hollywood movies. Each week, viewers watch two different monsters being created for two different clients. Deadlines are short. Tempers flare when the custom designs don’t come together as expected or take longer to complete. Clients (movie directors) need the make-up or costumes on set according to their shooting schedule. “We’re chasing daylight here!”
The pressure to create and design monsters according to specifications from the clients falls squarely on the shoulders of the father and his daughter. Dad taught his daughter the business. She has been helping him since she was a teenager. Now, she is as capable as her dad, but not as experienced.
Fighters, take your positions!
Each week they go head-to-head over how to go about fulfilling the client’s expectations. Dad wants things to go his way–not because he’s right–but because he’s the elder, in my opinion. His daughter’s ideas have worked well. That doesn’t mean that every idea works, but she is deserving of respect for her knowledge and creativity.
What it looks like in real-time
In this family affair, Cleve works with both of his daughters and his ex-wife.
Cleve Hall (Dad): “Working with your ex-wife? Not recommended…I refer to Constance as my mini-me. She has been working with me since she was 13 years old.”
Sofia (mum and ex-wife): “Constance has gotten to the point where she could build one of these monsters herself. I think that’s why they butt heads so much. They’re both very stubborn. They both hold their ground. It can escalate into an all-out war. It can definitely get very ugly.”
That is a defensive action taken by Constance to maintain professional distance from a family member.
Constance (daughter): “My dad’s been making monsters since before I was born…I had an idea that very easily could have cut our patterning time in half, but Dad shot me down without even giving me a chance…He just doesn’t want to listen.”
Cleve: “I’m the first guy who’s always open to new innovations. This was just not the time for it.”
After the successful completion of a monster effect on the set with the actors and the film crew, Constance congratulated herself.
Constance: “No one wanted to trust me, but obviously I had it in hand the whole time…I’m feeling pretty confident right now. Not that anyone admitted they were wrong or said ‘thanks’ or anything like that. But it feels pretty good. Being right usually does. ”
The danger in closing off your mind to new ideas or doing it someone else’s way, is that you might miss something important that you really needed to know. You set up a pattern of people not bothering to tell you things because they don’t feel like arguing with you.
As needed, Sofia steps in to act as the go-between to manage the “creative bickering” between Constance and Cleve. They succeed in completing (the deliverables) the monsters, but their relationship is strained.
When respect is withheld, it can feel like you have to keep advancing–moving forward, dropping “one-two” punches and deflecting any return strikes. Dynamic debates are useful, but not if it feels like you are dodging blows from an opponent. When you’re in a battle to constantly prove your worth, it’s exhausting. It never stops. There’s no bell to signal the end of a round.
Can you earn the respect of someone who doesn’t want to give it to you?
I think it might be easier to get a leopard to change his spots than it would be to gain the respect of someone who purposely withholds it from you.
In their minds, having respect for you might mean that you are their equal.
If you are seen as his or her equal, then there is a perceived loss of power. Anyone withholding respect from you has deemed you “not worthy” of respect, maybe not worthy of power.
What can you do?
Give up trying to earn that person’s respect. He or she has too much to lose. It doesn’t make them feel good to show you respect. Instead, spend more time with people who do respect you and your work.
How Constance handles it
Constance: “We still have a ton of work to do. So, I’m just going to stay away from him–and keep my distance and be as productive as I can.”
Fight back and restore your dignity by taking the following actions:
- Recognize that this person’s opinion is one of many opinions — who else agrees with him or her? How do other people receive your ideas?
- Make a list of the people who respect your input.
- Get more than one opinion on your work whenever possible.
- Limit the number of meetings where just the two of you meet so that other people can overhear the interaction between you and the person who is withholding respect.
- Maintain functional, professional distance with the person who is withholding respect (you are not friends). Dad becomes Cleve in this example.
- Look for support and reinforcement elsewhere.
- Don’t cave in and stop talking or sharing your ideas.
- Have respect for yourself. Believe in yourself.
- Don’t stop having ideas. Recognize that his or her ideas have merit–yours do too.
- Reconcile yourself to the way things are and then decide whether you want to stay or find a new situation.
Your guard comes down and you feel confident when you are around people who respect you. Your guard will be up when the person you’re speaking with has no respect for you. Don’t waste your time trying to change that person’s mind.
Here’s my question for you: if someone offers no respect for your ideas, do you respond in kind, offering no respect for their ideas? Click the green button at the top of this post marked “comments” to be taken to the comment box.
My name is Cheryl Ragsdale. I apply my MMA fight training to teaching people how to handle verbal skirmishes in professional and personal relationships. Evaluating problems and disagreements by using a framework based on applying the language of MMA fighting tactics and strategies can help to objectify your position and reveal alternatives you can use to improve your position against your opponent.
If you would like coaching on any sticky situations like this one that put you in a bad position, please contact me directly.
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