Love thy Bully: 2-minute Exercise to Help with Toxicity at Work

BL00 - Loving kindness

By Mo Edjlali, Founder & CEO

Confronting Workplace Challenges

In the early days of my meditation journey, I worked full-time doing IT program management for federal agencies. One memorable project was to champion our department's software needs and evaluate the work of a contracting firm eager to conclude their software development efforts.

This firm was ready to wrap things up and move on. The VP who was overseeing the development was eager to swiftly, and with as little cost, secure approval from government representatives, and close out the project. In my two decades of work experience, I have, from time to time come across people who can behave like rabid bulldogs. This VP was one of these types. He would try to use technical jargon, fear, intimidation, and aggression to get his way, often yelling and confronting people in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.  

Then I showed up. I am fairly technical and business savvy, he was not going to get very far with the jargon. He felt threatened right away and immediately tried to exert his dominance over me like he had others. I was not having it and held my ground. He got nastier and resorted to being more aggressive and difficult every step of the way. 

I was finding myself tested. You see I too can be a rabid bulldog and that is part of the reason I got into mindfulness! That approach has never served me or those around me well but I felt the urge to react. I knew that if I matched his approach we would just get into shout matches and it would not serve my client and was not how I wanted to operate. I had to do something. 

At the time I was commuting and I created a really simple compassion practice that was a micro-practice version of loving-kindness.  

The Mindful Response

If you are not familiar with the term micro-practice - it refers to a brief, focused activity or exercise designed to cultivate mindfulness, well-being, or specific skills with minimal time commitment. Typically lasting from a few seconds to a few minutes, micro-practices are intended to be easily integrated into daily routines, offering a practical way to maintain mindfulness, reduce stress, or enhance focus amidst the busyness of modern life.

Loving-kindness meditation, also known as Metta meditation, is a practice rooted in Buddhist tradition aimed at cultivating feelings of unconditional kindness and love towards oneself and others. The practice involves repeating phrases that express wishes for well-being, happiness, safety, and ease for oneself and then gradually extending these wishes to include others: friends, acquaintances, strangers, and even those with whom one may have conflict.

The meditation begins with the practitioner focusing on themselves, silently repeating phrases such as "May I be happy, may I be safe, may I be healthy, may I live with ease," fostering a sense of self-compassion and self-love. As the meditation progresses, these sentiments are directed towards others, starting with someone the practitioner feels gratitude or love for, then to a neutral person, followed by someone with whom they have difficulties, and finally extending to all sentient beings.

A Quick Compassion Practice

So with that in mind, I created a little practice inspired and rooted in Loving-kindness but that could be practiced in a few minutes and on a commute.  

It would go like this, as I was driving I had a set of wooden prayer beads. The beads for me have no spiritual meaning just used them to help keep count. As I’m heading to the HQ of this federal agency, preparing to t-off with his very unpleasant VP the practice would simply go like this:

Repeating the following phrases to myself 30 times: 

  • May I be at ease
  • May I be at ease…

Then 30 times

  • May I be happy
  • May I be happy…

After I would do the following repeating the phrases for the person I was having difficulty with: 

  • May [that jerky VP] be at ease
  • May [that jerky VP] be at ease…

Then 30 times

  • May [that jerky VP] be happy
  • May [that jerky VP] be happy…

This simple exercise on my commute worked wonders for me. It primed me to see our shared humanity and reduced the stickiness of his often toxic energy. I would respond with a focus on the desired outcome versus reacting with an emotional charge. When he would act that way, I would remind myself he must be suffering and that it was not about me. I would feel for him versus wanting to fight with him. The charged emotion he was directing towards me would just roll off and I was better able to serve my client and avoid making things personal or taking them personally. 

If you don’t have beads you can do this using your fingers or just keeping track in your mind. You can do this on your commute, before a meeting, whatever it might be. Maybe to deal with a client, a boss, a family member, or a significant other when you are at odds and emotions are charged. 

Have you ever tried a practice like this? Share your thoughts.

12 comments

Julie
 

Very helpful and simple! Thank you. 😊 

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Julie also haha
 

I have done this type of meditation for years but I think this article is the best explanation of it that I've ever seen! Shared it with friends and coworkers right away.  Thank you for sharing!

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Mo Edjlali
Staff
 

Thanks Julie, what a kind thing to share!

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Tama
 

This is great! 

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Diane
 

 What is you reasoning for using 'May' (wishful thinking) rather then 'I am' (this is already within in me or them but maybe not in consciousness at the time)?  I agree with Julie...this is a great explanation!!

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Mo Edjlali
Staff
 

Its an invitation to be, an aspiration, but  I would not say wishful thinking.  When we say "I am peaceful" there is a forcefulness and can be disingenuous.  These phrases are true no matter what state we are in.  

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Maria
 

Love it Mo!

Sometimes when I am nervous before starting a presentation or a class with a large group I use it internally while watching people.... 
May they be happy...
May they have peace of soul
May they feel confident in themselves and in each other.
This helps me to create connection with that shared Humanity and to stop focusing on me. 

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David Hubbard
 

Geez, seems like the bully could use some feedback too

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Ekaterina Quinones
 

Love this as a micro-practice and I appreciate your focus at the end about neutralizing the emotional charge. Not allowing the other person's behavior to affect you is more than half the battle. Through my own experiences of working with difficult people, I came to the conclusion that I don't have to love/forgive/feel sorry for them (even though I do, sometimes). I try at least to understand where they are coming from, or see some glimpse of the human underneath the B.S.  I would accept that this is how they are right now and understood that responding aggressively would only make things worse. Also, it's not who I am.  I treat people with respect, kindness and courtesy. I listen more than I talk. I'll only shout if there's danger. And I've observed that the more I stand in my power of calm courtesy, unchanged by the other person's behavior, focusing on the facts and the tasks, the more likely the other person is to calm down. I found out later in life that I may have actually tuned into a behavior called "mirroring" and subconsciously used it to my advantage! 

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Tom Dowling
 

In the book Alcoholics Anonymous (page 67) the reader is encouraged to see that "the people who had wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick. Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us , they, like ourselves, were sick too. We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, "This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done."  I have practiced a short form of this for years: Gathering attention to my breath I think "Sick person, how may I help?" This takes no longer than the time it takes to breathe in and out mindfully. I have found it transformative.

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Edward Joyce
 

This exercise is as useful as uno online

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Donna J. Milne
 

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