Hissy-Fit Leadership

You’ve heard the expressions.  Someone has a hissy or a conniption.  A snit or a fit.  They leave in a huff.  They take their ball and go home.  It could be the behavior of a man or a woman.   It could be a customer, a coworker or a leader. You see it at work, at home, in clubs, in choirs, almost anywhere.  Hissy may come from the word hysterical or perhaps the onomatopoeic word hiss.

People use hissy fits to get their way.  And for good reason.  They work.

People are accustomed to throwing fits because they learned as a child that tantrums get results.  As an adult, they are a great tool in the workplace because hissy fits remind others of their kids.  They love their kids, therefore they love working with people who throw fits.  It gives them the warm feeling of home.

Hissy fits also work for the same reason that horror movies are popular.  A scary movie may make you jump out of your seat, but it gets your adrenaline going.  The scarier the film is the more likely you’ll want to tell others about it, to re-live it, and also to go see the next one.  It’s the same with fits.  In our fight-or-flight world, people love that rush when their blood pressure goes through the roof.  They actually look forward to your next fit.

Hissy fits are also great time savers.  You’ll avoid long, drawn-out, logical conversations.  Other people, rather than trying to fit you into the tiny box created by their little minds, will simply throw up their hands and agree with the truth which you are so clearly pointing out.  It’s the shortest route from point A (where they are) to point B (where you want them to be).

One size hissy fits all.  This means that others are also inclined to throw a fit.  You need to start your’s first.  It they jump the gun, you’ll be inclined to let them have their way for the exact reasons we talked about earlier.  When it comes to two fits, this town (or company) isn’t big enough for both of you.  You never want to give the other guy the advantage of being the first to hiss, especially the quiet ones who rarely throw fits.  Remember still water runs deep, and if YOU don’t go first, watch out.  Be a true leader and be the first to throw your fit.

And what if hissy fits aren’t effective for you in your current job?  Remember the old saying, “If the hiss doesn’t fit, you must quit.”  Find another job where they appreciate your interpersonal skills.  And remember to throw a fit when submitting your resignation.  It’ll give them one last chance to realize how special you are and beg you not to leave.

Well, I see there are still two people reading.  So, for both of you, let me be serious for a moment.

The truth is that hissy fits are neither attractive nor effective.  They are the paths taken by those who lack higher-level social skills.

A person can actually have a hissy fit when alone.  But the most memorable ones are when two parties are involved!  Of course both parties to the interaction may have different interpretations, different labels, which describe the interaction.  One person’s fit is another person’s reasonably justified behavior.  Justified or not, such behavior is counterproductive.  It tears down relationships.  Both parties lose.

The most important thing is not being able to point the finger at someone else having a hissy, but recognizing the non-effective coping strategy when WE use it!

If someone wants to have a fit, they’ve probably been having temper tantrums since childhood.  Most of us are prisoners of habit, if not hissys then some other tactic which may be equally ineffective.  Unproductive patterns are pre-programmed responses to stimuli.  The thing which usually triggers a programmed response is someone else failing to meet the hissy-person’s expectations.  The world revolves around them and others must conform to their idea of the way everything should be.  Hissy-Man or Hissy-Woman owns the truth.  At least they think they do.

In unhappy relationships the stimulus-response cycle spirals downward.  One hissy deserves another.  One tone of voice begets more of the same.  One nasty look is mirrored back.  One harsh word gets translated into something worse and comes zinging back.  Good intentions end up being gasoline thrown on the fire.

And often it’s such a habitual pattern that when we’re guilty we don’t even realize what we’re doing.  I know I’ve heard the expression: “It wasn’t what you said…it was HOW you said it!”  I didn’t mean for a tone of voice which would carry a negative inflection.  But how the message is RECEIVED gives a clearer picture of the actual meaning than does the INTENT of the sender.  Truth is measured by the perception of the receiver.

Sometimes the problem is word choice.  I remember saying to a good friend, “Don’t be childish!”  Wrong word choice.  And sometimes it’s facial expression which conveys the meaning, without saying a word.  Have you ever simply looked at someone and they said to you, “Well what!?”  They knew that your “look” was making a statement but they weren’t sure what it was.  I’ve heard those words before.

Are you in touch with how your actions, words and tone of voice are affecting others?  Do you know how your input to a relationship is helping to define the relationship, improve it or destroy it?  You have no influence over other parts of the relationship equation other than your own role.  And the truth is, you change other people by changing yourself first. 

Do you ever play the part of Hissy-Man or Hissy-Woman?  If you do and you know it, you can do something about it.  If you do, and don’t know it…you better find another super hero to help you out.

As a leader in a company, club, or civic organization, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be heading up a conflict-free organization.  Not everyone will agree with your vision.  Taking your ball and going home is the easy way out.  You never win by quitting.  The effective leader hangs in there, makes peace, stills the waters.  The effective leader also realizes that leadership is not a popularity contest, but also knows that it’s hard to lead or manage people if they don’t like and respect you.  Negative, hissy-like leadership styles repel followers.  Tantrum experts have temporary control, win a few battles but lose the war.  Be open to and solicit feedback.  Be open to being wrong.  Be open to changing courses.

The more you are open to feedback, and to knowing yourself, the more effective leader you’ll become.  And the more you anticipate and assume that others are doing their best and coming from a good place, the more you’ll find harmony and enjoy your relationships.  And above all, keep your sense of humor.  Remember that a sense of humor is not about the jokes, it’s a way of looking at life.  Make good choices.  Personally, I prefer not to play the role of Hissy-Man.  I don’t look good in tights.