I had a few heavy posts so thought I’d mix it up with something light-hearted.
Abuse sucks monkey balls. It’s not fun. There is a lot of second-guessing, deflated sense of self, crying, isolation… all sorts of heavy consequences from abuse. But what is the silver lining? What skills were learned through the storms?
Survivors are essentially conditioned to put others first. This comes in super handy for customer service roles. I know my talents were put to use as VIP concierge for a few years, globally. This attitude is perfect for customer service roles.
Abusers rarely take responsibility for causing harm. It’s always someone else’s fault. Rather than have circular discussions on what is right vs wrong, survivors know how to redirect the conversation towards finding solutions. Sometimes it’s also finding solutions for imaginary problems. Solution-based mindset is great for operational success roles.
Abusers like to keep their target on pins and needles. The goal is to keep them in an emotional state because it’s easier to control people when they are emotional. Emotions are not rational and rational people are not emotional. So the person being abused has to chronically think of a million ways something can go wrong as an attempt to avoid an abusive outburst. This is VERY relevant to the workplace. Crisis Management 101. Change Management. Human Resources. I capitalised on this skill to organise events around the world. Having the skill to expect the unexpected helped me reduce my risk and proactively address potential problems. Readiness is an awesome skill for strategy roles.
Abuse allows you to learn so many things, especially how to use your words, intentionally. “Anything you say can & will be used against you in a court of lawless dysfunction.” A common saying within the domestic violence community. This allows survivors to be very aware and intentional with words. Example, in a recent post, I said, “I am honouring the death of xxx.” The subject was upset because they thought I was celebrating their death. Even with a quick google of the word HONOR, you can see it’s regarded with great respect. Being able to articulate situations (and emotions) not only comes in handy to diffuse abusers but this also comes in handy when managing teams where English is not the first language. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Be precise. Be intentional. My ability to use precise language and articulate processes helped when I was managing teams around the world. Awareness of words is handy for communication and HR roles.
Do you know what it’s like to mentally and emotionally deal with someone who has been attacking you for multiple days? It sucks but it comes in SO handy when you have a heavy workload. Pressing deadline. No problem. I’ve pulled all-nighters thanks to my training. I have learned how to stay focused on the goal despite external distractions. (some might consider this compartmentalizing). Survivors of violence are basically super marathoners. They can go the distance. This is also great for high-stress environments. There is a reason why I worked in finance/commodities for so many years. High stress work environments were relaxed compared to the turmoil in my personal life. Mental resilience is a key skill for any leadership role.
Abusers are successful because the abuse takes place in private. Some abusers enjoy knowing they caused someone else pain. Everything is a game to be seen and a game of control. Most people (myself included) were scared to make the abuse known for a few reasons; I had faith the abuser would change, I thought the abuse was my fault, I didn’t want people judging me for accepting treatment I didn’t deserve, denial. Rather than acknowledge the abuse, I told myself “It’s not that bad.” “He didn’t mean it.” “Tomorrow will be better.” “Well if there are 365 days in the year, let’s focus on those 2 phenomenal days!” This habit of finding the silver lining is PERFECT for roles in Public Relations (PR) and essentially any client-facing role. What we learn for survival might as well be useful, professionally. I know this skill has served me well for Global PR roles for about 8 years. Sunny disposition perspective is essential for PR roles.
Abusers can make you think you are at fault for something. It’s never their issue, it’s you. So once you get past the absurdity of it all, and your emotions are in check, it’s fairly easy to fall into CSI mode and figure out the root cause. For me, this skill is super useful! I can easily evaluate multiple perspectives, motivations and energy in a way to connect the dots. This helps me see big picture. The ability to find themes to behaviour allows survivors reduce exposures/threats. This helps with big data, crisis comms, & event planning. This is an extremely useful life skill to have in general! Issues management? I put this skill to use for a few years as a corporate fix-it girl – if a team had a bottleneck or issue, I was called and put on the project to simplify and clean up. VERY useful to have a reputation of a problem solver. (BTW corporate execs LOVE this skill).
Abusers create a world of chaos. Most problems are imaginary. This comes in super handy when dealing with toxic work environments. Keeping calm in a sea of chaos! Understanding what to focus on. Being able to identify what can be accomplished. People get distracted by shiny objects or by the loudest speaker in the room. Experiencing abuse allows you to discern what is relevant and what is just noise. The secret ingredient to agility is knowing what we have control over. This skill is great for operational or strategy roles.
Effective (be invisible)
Sometimes the only way to prevent an abusive episode is to be invisible. This is learned as a way to keep yourself safe… and comes in handy when executing high visibility tasks (mainly events). We know how to get things done in plain sight without being seen (or needing credit). This is useful for Corporate Affairs, Investor Relations and Crisis roles.
I’d love to hear from you guys. What habits/skills can you pull from your abusive situation?