What Are They Afraid Of?


This past Monday, #PSD70’s “Exploring Leadership” cohort held its last meeting of the 2013/2014 school year.  The positive energy I personally felt from these meetings was a highlight of the school year for me.  I was able to meet colleagues from around the division who were involved in, or interested in leadership.  The discussions we had were thought provoking and made me reflect on my own expectations for myself and others in leadership positions.

On Monday, our speaker was Memorial Composite High School principal Shauna Boyce. Shauna spoke of her journey to becoming an administrator and some of the obstacles and successes along the way.  She was willing to answer questions about everything from curriculum development and implementation to leadership in trauma situations.  One thing she said at this meeting has stuck with me and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  A question had come up in regards to dealing with angry parents or confrontational situations. Shauna said that she believes that anger comes from some kind of fear.  That being afraid is, for some reason, socially unacceptable, while being angry and “tearing a strip off” someone is acceptable. When dealing with people who are quite angry, Shauna seeks to understand what it is that they are actually afraid of and then tries to allay those fears. When she does this, the anger subsides and the conflict is diminished.

That was a powerful way to frame one of the most dreaded, difficult aspects of pretty much ANY job or position.  I thought immediately of a couple of situations that occurred during this school year, that, if I had considered where the anger was coming from, what fear it represented, it is likely that the issue could have been resolved sooner and easier.

It was also an eye opener to consider times when I was angry or confrontational with someone.  What was I afraid of? Why did I feel the need to express my fears in terms of anger?

I appreciated the paradigm shift, the new perspective.  I’d love to hear others’ best practices or strategies when dealing with conflict.



One thought on “What Are They Afraid Of?

  1. Thanks for the kind words, Marci, and my apologies for not commenting for so long. I do believe fear is one of the strongest emotions we feel (but hopefully less powerful than love and joy), and I do try to remember that whenever I find myself being angry and when others around me are angry.
    I have experienced success when remembering this, but I will admit it is not a magic bullet! There have been more than a few times in my career when someone both entered and exited my office angry – a failure on my part in my eyes, but one more experience that allows me to learn more about human behaviour 🙂
    Hope you had a great summer, Marci and you’re ready for another great year!

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