People do different things with red flags. Some people sidestep them: they are afraid of getting hurt or they don’t want to cause pain to other people. Others see red and storm the flag without thinking of the consequences. A third group of people always wear red flags. They are never without a flag, and they are ready to wave it at the slightest inconvenience. Picnic goers use red flags as picnic mats. They acknowledge the flag, then calm down, sit down and spill the beans.
Here are some clues to become aware and for making the best use of the red flags in your life or organisation.
Some people avoid anger or confrontation at any cost. When they see other people waving their flags, they get out of the way. They are afraid of getting hurt or they don’t want to cause pain to other people.
Instead of acknowledging problems, they play dead. They just smile and try to please everyone.
What do they win? They stay the nice guy/girl.
What do they lose? An opportunity to grow and understand the red flag’s message.
Stormers and grabbers
Some people see red when they are confronted or when they are angry. They don’t think of the consequences: their only aim is to kill or to win. Sometimes it is just a brilliant display of fireworks, but in other cases people get hurt or projects suffer.
What do they win? They gain an adrenaline rush and a surge of power (based on others’ fear), and a sure win on the first round.
What do they lose? Control, dignity and self-esteem.
Some people will never be caught without a flag. They are ready to wave it at the slightest inconvenience. They have the ability to turn every contact into a fight.
What do they win? They are predictable. Everybody knows who is the difficult person in the family or organisation and tiptoe around them.
What do they lose? They don’t have real connections with people.
Some people have the ability to use the flag as a red picnic mat. They acknowledge the flag, then calm down, sit down and spill the beans.
What do they win? Growth opportunities, sustainable connections and respectful working relationships.
What do they lose? The burden of having to sidestep, storm or wear the red flag.
Make sure that you get the red flag’s message:
- Acknowledge that red flags are a normal part of life.
- Understand that a red flag is an accurate signal of real problems.
- Screen the flags; you do not need to act on all of them.
- Figure out what message the flag is sending, then communicate and act on it.
- Use the opportunity to solve the problem or to take action.
- Convey the message in a clearly understandable way.
- Never use red flags as an excuse.
- Use red flags only when necessary and not all the time.
Did you know: people carrying around anger flags on (or inside of them) are much more prone to become ill.
Elsa Simpson is an experienced facilitator, trainer and counsellor. She conducts workshops and team-builds for personal growth and development, and conflict/anger management within organisations.