How To Combat The ‘Head Trash’ In People Around You

Have you ever walked away from a conversation with a co-worker or family member shaking your head and wondering, “Where did that come from?”

In their new book, HeadTrash 2: Dealing with and Overcoming Other People’s Junk, authors Tish Squillaro and Tim Thomas offer practical tips for identifying and dealing with the emotional baggage in other people’s heads (i.e., “head trash”) in ways that can foster healthy relationships and protect your career.

The book gets into the root causes of head trash, which is often linked to underlying emotions such as anger, arrogance, control, fear, insecurity, guilt or paranoia. Based on their decades as business consultants and coaches working with CEOs to help them navigate through negative behaviors in those around them, the book provides valuable checklists and quizzes to help the reader identify and deal with emotional baggage in others.

How To Respond When The Boss Starts Yelling

When you see that a normal conversation has the potential to escalate into a screaming match, it’s critical to identify the emotional triggers that tend to evoke the negative behavior. In other words, to the extent possible, don’t poke the beast. However, once the yelling begins, the best response is to maintain a calm demeanor, avoid responding in kind and risk escalating the situation. Stick to your guns and calmly stay on point. Once things settle down, open a dialogue that asks sincere questions that can lead to better communication and greater understanding about where the disagreement came from and how to avoid it in the future.

What To Do When Dealing With A Control Freak

Most relationships are based on the art of compromise, but when normal collaboration turns into a one-sided “my way or the highway” relationship, you’re likely dealing with the head trash of control. Controlling people often operate under the rules of information hoarding, because after all, information equates to power and control. When working with a controlling person, it’s important to be clear, firm, detailed and calm about your point of view. If you remain persistent and hold your ground by pointing out the value in your perspective, you can begin to build a stronger relationship and over time earn their trust, which may help them to relinquish some, not all, of their control.

When They’re Full Of Themselves

Sometimes a co-worker or boss suffers from the head trash of arrogance. This type of individual may be “often wrong but never in doubt.” One of the important keys to dealing with arrogant people is to avoid engaging in a heated argument that brings out your own worst self. When arrogant people are saddled up on their high horses, you’ll never throw them off. A better approach is to wait for a quiet moment and schedule a follow-on conversation to address your concerns over their behavior in a non-confrontational tone.

The book offers four essential tips for dealing with all type of head trash:

  • Seek first to understand. Approach others in a spirit of non-judgment so you can better understand the underlying issues behind the behavior.
  • Don’t text, email, digitally chat, or phone it in. Human beings are complex creatures, and it is essential to have an in-person conversation to be fully able to read all the verbal and non-verbal cues being communicated.
  • Avoid broadcasting your concerns. Spelling out your concerns with another person via social media or other forms of modern communications that can easily be shared with a network of others is a recipe for disaster and will reflect poorly on you. Keep your thoughts about the person to yourself or restrict them to one trusted party who has no direct connection with the individuals involved.
  • Design a success road map. When confronting a person with head trash, come armed to the conversation with some ideas for positive change. What does success look like? Get the person you’re working with to join you in describing how things could improve, and then work together to lay out a plan.

The truth is that all of us have our own form of head trash. This book offers advice on ways to keep these natural human tendencies from derailing our day-to-day relationships and our ability to be our best selves.

Kevin Kruse is the author of the bestselling book Employee Engagement 2.0 and the Personal Engagement Personality Quiz.