In-house Interpersonal: Setting The Stage

Introducing InHOWse Interpersonal

by Ilise Benun

If the workplace was simply the place you did your work, things would be much easier. Instead, whether you work in a small office, a large corporation, or alone at home, the workplace is where we all bring ourselves and our baggage—that is, our outlook on the world, our hopes, our worries, insecurities and fears, and much more. We all do, and this is what makes certain otherwise innocent exchanges at work problematic.


The one thing to remember is that most of what happens at work—what we say to each other at work and the way we say it—is not about work, and has little to do with the work at hand. It may have to do with the way, way past or something a bit more current, such as a breakfast spat, a sick pet or a baby on the way. You will probably never know.

What you can know is this: It isn’t about you. Even when on the surface it’s about something you did, the reaction is rarely about you, especially if it is disproportionate to the reality. If you can detach enough in these difficult moments, taking your focus outward and bringing your genuine curiosity to bear, it’s actually fascinating to watch people interact and try to figure out what’s really going on, even if you’re right in the middle of it.

This series, adapted from my book, Stop Pushing Me Around: A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy and Less Assertive, will outline situations that you are likely to encounter in your workaday life and in which the solution is usually a mixture of detachment and clearer communication, which is easier said than done and requires practice.

Human dynamics are complex. Everything happens in a specific context and must be dealt with, if possible, on a case-by-case basis. There will be no right or wrong here. So I hope you will comment and voice your opinions on my suggestions. And, if you have specific “interpersonal” situations you’d like addressed, send them to

Ilise Benun is the founder of Marketing Mentor, co-producer of the Creative Freelancer Conference and lead author at the Marketing Mix Blog and the Creative Freelancer Blog (, The ideas for the InHOWse Interpersonal series come from her book, Stop Pushing Me Around: A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy and Less Assertive. Find more about all of this on

One thought on “In-house Interpersonal: Setting The Stage

  1. Ryan

    I wholeheartedly agree. We all have baggage, for better or worse, and it influences the way we look at and interact with the world around us. Nobody can see any situation in a truly objective way because we all have our own individual lenses we must look through. The best we can do is try to be conscious of our own biases and understand that when it comes to human emotion, almost everything is more complex than it appears.