Summary: There is so much disagreement in today’s world. Much of it is due to the behavior pattern of separating people into being “for” and “against” each other. Do you know a splitter (or are you one)? Here are ways out of the tangled web that causes the split for hate and even war to occur.
Dear Dr. Sylvia,
There is a damn splitter in my company, and she causes tons of problems. The emotional climate at work is bleak, and there’s no trust anywhere.
I now see this splitting into winners and losers in politics and school settings and even caused issues at the Academy Awards Ceremony.
Have we gone too far with jokes that cause us to split into “for” and “against” camps?
For instance, I wonder, was Chris Rock’s questionable joke about Will Smith’s wife Jada meant to cause so much fuss? Is he a splitter? And well, the internet exploded with comments about Will Smith’s slap. Is he a splitter?
In the same vein, I think he reacted to some underlying stress. Am I correct?
Above all, I know you talk about “the splitter” as someone who has a negative behavior pattern that causes a lot of rifts and ugly behavior.
Please expand on this.
Dear Hopeful Harmonizer,
The time to observe, understand, and transform the behavior of those who love to split people apart is now!
Most importantly, identifying and transforming splitters into peacemakers is the topic of this post. As you’ll see in my story, they can be tricky to spot, and often it isn’t until they’ve done their dirty work.
It’s easy to be trapped in a split situation and more challenging to stay neutral.
For example, did you ever get sucked into some juicy gossip and then see it backfire? UGH! That’s what happened to me. And while I’m so embarrassed, it’s such a good learning moment.
I had an employee who was always telling me how wonderful I was. She would smile such a sweet smile and say, “You are so smart and wise. I bet you can always tell when people are lying or being deceptive.”
I would stand up straighter, nod my head in the affirmative, and say with profound modesty, “Yup.”
The split comes when you believe someone without checking the facts first.
In addition, Janice would tell me about all the issues with the staff that happened when I was traveling around the country to work with teams and leaders.
Her response was always, “You know how much I care about you. Don’t worry; I’ve got your back.”
Listen, if you ever hear those words from someone, I beg you, be careful.
They sound soothing. Yet, it can be absolute BS.
Learn to listen for the split by asking more profound questions.
Finally, a staff member and I were having coffee, just taking a peaceful break, and she said, “I hear you and Janice are at odds with each other.”
I guess at times of surprise; I’m not so eloquent. I looked at Lois and merely went, “Huh?”
Moreover, I got an earful about everything I did that was not perfect; everything I ever did was merely human.
And suddenly, it hit me. I had been lulled into dreamland by a splitter.
It is easy to split people into aggressive camps and more complicated to create peace.
I teach that the splitter is the most complex pattern to observe and the most intricate pattern to transform.
Here’s why: Splitters are especially insidious because they are so hard to spot. They’re always cordial and helpful (at least to your face). They always want to protect you and be there when needed.
Transforming splitters into peacemakers, is this possible?
Watch this short video and see what I have to say.
OKAY, you’re wondering what I did do?
As a result, I had to call several on my leadership team and ask the pointed questions that were hard to ask and listen to answers that made me sad and uncomfortable.
Subsequently, I had missed the mark by a mile.
Be a truth seeker and not be seduced by the splitter personality.
Truth-telling is freeing. Just remember, sometimes you must dig for the truth. It’s worth it. The thick veil of pollution I had been feeling began to lift.
After my discussion with Janice, it didn’t go very well. She claimed I was tormenting her with my questions and would sue to say it was a hostile work environment.
Our HR partner spoke with her and kindly told her it would be best to leave since so many would come forward to respond to her “splitting ways.”
Finally, she did quit.
Therefore, I was lucky.
Help splitters become peacemakers and save lots of grief (and even lawsuits).
This is one battle never won. From what I hear, she leaves shards of glass wherever she goes.
Often splitters grew up in families where they learned very early you had to take sides, yet neither side had any safety. Thus, you play people off against each other. The hope is you will never get caught being the one to get yelled at.
Further, I just missed the signals. Splitters who do see the light of day can transform to become peacemakers. She is talented and could be a great force for good. That is my wish for her.
In conclusion, as for Chris Rock. Perhaps the time for razing people in public has run its course. And for Will Smith, another form of truth-telling beyond a whack on the side of the head would be more effective. I do think that he, as a professional actor, was reacting to stress beyond the situation of the moment. He hit a tipping point.
Here’s a way of looking at your own stress level to make better decisions.
Let’s all do better,
P.S. When we all learn to look at behavior patterns, our own and those of others, we’ll help make the world a better place. Please check out my book Don’t Bring It To Work to find the 13 most common negative behavior patterns we learned as kids and what to do about them. It will help make you a better leader.