It takes two to tango

Sonja enters the room. She is full of hope.
It’s the first time we meet. She tells me she feels like a doormat. Or better, she behaves like one. One look from another person and she already does what she ( thinks ) will be asked.

A reaction that is eagerly used. But Sonja suffers from this. Feels that this behavior does not suit her. Her energy level is very low, therefore she wants to break this pattern. She is very excited about what’s to come.

=> Everything starts with a decision.

Sonja enters the room. She looks concerned.
After some questions she tells me what worries her. After our previous conversation, she did some thinking. She really wants to get rid of that ‘please people behavior’ and also knows she needs it, but on the other hand she is very afraid of changing. She is afraid that she will turn into a nasty and selfish human being. A witch. I reassure her. The one person who is in control is herself. She is not a nasty human being by nature and will not become one.

 => Essentially you do not change, you become yourself more and more.

Sonja enters the room. She looks frustrated.
She has changed. She knows it. She stands up for herself much better. Knows what her boundaries are and takes them into account. She feels it. She sees it. She notices it. And it feels so good! But the ‘others’ unfortunately do not see the change. They treat her just like before. As if nothing has changed. I recognize it. It is a fact:

=>Sometimes it is hard to see new behavior.

Sonja enters the room. She looks spunky.
She did not let herself be discouraged and continued her new behavior. What has helped her is that she realized that her new behavior does not always suit everyone. That people often tend to approach someone as they used to be. What helped her is pointing out what she is running into. She realizes:

 => Sometimes it is hard for others to accept new behavior

Sonja enters the room. She looks delighted.
She succeeded. She has achieved results! She can be herself and at the same time maintain a good relationship with her colleagues. In fact, she is respected, her growth is seen and she even receives sincere compliments.

 => Sometimes it is just a matter of time

Sonja enters the room for her final session
We discuss the trajectory. ‘That we took out the core of my’ please people behavior ‘ felt very good. That was such a relief. This allowed me to be myself . I then applied the tools that I learned afterwards step by step. I feel good, much calmer and relaxed. ‘

She explains further: I developed a new attitude towards other people. I now know how much effort it takes to change behavior. How exciting that is. What I found difficult is that although I changed, my environment did not. Not directly. It is very difficult when people continue to respond to you as if you are still the same when you are not.

It sometimes felt like a refusal to see me as I am. Sometimes I felt really insulted by that. Yet I now understand it too. I know that my old behavior came in handy. And I see that I made it happen myself. I also see that the more I implemented the new ways, the better things got. ‘It takes two to tango’ as you always say.

I now know that you cannot just assume that someone is like they were yesterday. Or last week, last year. It is true what you said:

Meet each person every time as if it were the first time you meet him. You never know what happened in the time that you do not see each other, many things can change.

And to come back to my previous fear
I now know my behavior has nothing to do with who I am. I am who I am.
My behavior, I can choose. And you know what Karen?

=> I have changed, and yet again, I have not.  

  • Karen van Hout ( with thanks to ‘Sonja’ who gave permission to write this blog)

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4 Advantages of gender differences within the workplace

In a previous blog I wrote about Monique. How she came to the decision to compose a diverse team.

Monique noticed that she had made a good decision. As she expected, the different traits and talents of the people she chose added value to the team. She was content.  It has become a good cooperating team. The desired results were being achieved and from time to time they had a good laugh. The project was running smoothly.

Monique did however worry about Diana, one of the women in the team. Diana had her opinions about the men. She was very clear on this and expressed these opinions verbally as well as non-verbally.

  • She found that the men often took action too soon.
  • She called them childish because they were busy outdoing each other.
  • She did not feel as if she was taken seriously when she said ‘no’.
  • She found them lazy because it seemed as if they continuously delegated their tasks onto other people.


The assignment
Monique saw it happen. First she did not want to believe it but indeed: men and women differ from each other in behavior and in communication. She understood that this could occasionally not only lead to laughter, but also to misinterpretations, confusion, and annoyance.

But she also noticed that there were similarities. Each member of the team was incredibly driven. Motivated to become a successful individual who is part of a successful team. So she decided to make use of the things they had in common.

To be able to share this insight with Diana, she gave her the assignment to describe the gender differences within the team, and to analyze the advantages and the disadvantages.
After some resistance, Diana decided to give it a try.

The result
Because she had been so focused on the differences, it was easy for her to draw up this list. She experienced more difficulties when examining the advantages of these differences. However by thinking critically, being an observer, and talking to her colleagues, she discovered the following advantages:

  • By letting men and women work together, the men were prevented from taking action too soon while the women were stimulated to take action.
  • The fact that the men proudly acknowledged and shared their achievements among the team, gave the women the opportunity to do the same.
  • While women consider a ‘no’ to be a clear ‘no’, Diana realized that men often consider it to be something that can be changed into a ‘yes’. She now perceives the negotiation that follows after saying ‘no’ to be an opportunity for woman to continue the conversation and get what she aimed for anyway. She also knows that she has to be very clear when refusing something.
  • The annoyance that the women always seems to be working and the men apparently do nothing, also disappeared. The men inspired the women to perform their tasks more efficiently. At the same time, the women motivated the men to complete the tasks that were assigned to them.

Diana’s conclusion:
Men and women in the workplace respond differently. She saw that the unwritten rules were just there. The different reactions are not personally focused. And do not have to be brushed away but may be there. She concluded that men can learn from women, and vice versa. That the differences are the cause of the team’s success.


What’s next?
So this is not a plea for change. But a plea for creating mutual understanding and awareness. So that you can anticipate this and thus achieve better results. Whether they are business or personal.



Comment of the author: I know that some women consider this to be manipulation. But this is not the case. And by the way, if it makes our lives easier then what would be the issue?

Try to look at it as a chess game. What will be your next move?


– Karen van Hout