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I was first introduced to the concept of “owning my own power” after complaining to a friend about a professional colleague.  My friend wisely asked me how I had addressed the issue with my colleague.  I found it tough to admit that I hadn’t.

He paused and said, “Own your own power and quit acting like a victim.  Go talk with your colleague, explain the issue, and tell him what you need from him.”

Words to live by.  How many hours had I’d wasted before I was hit with this blinding flash of the obvious?  How ridiculous was it to be irritated because someone else hadn’t done what I thought they should, or, had done something I didn’t think they should have, yet not addressed the issue?

Even with that knowledge, sometimes it takes a sleepless night or two before I’m ready to admit that I’m upset with someone over an issue I have yet to address.

I’ve also learned that when I’ve stewed about a situation I have to be particularly careful to leave my emotions out of the dialogue when I address it.

Over time we each develop a method for doing this.  My current method involves writing the person a letter (not an EMAIL!)   Particularly when it’s an emotionally charged issue I pour out my emotions in the first draft.  Then I save the letter and go do something else.

After I’ve had time to clear my head, I edit the content to tone it down.  I continue “edit, go do something else” cycles until the picture in my mind of the person’s response is one that will resolve the problem.

At that point I typically go see the person or pick up the phone and call them.

I’m stewing about a situation now and just finished the second draft of the letter…. This one’s going to take a couple more rounds of introspection to acknowledge the part I played in causing the situation.  Clearly, I’m still a work in progress.

Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based in Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups.  Her next book, The Executive’s Toolbox, will be released soon.