You know when you’re in the middle of a difficult situation – a conflict with a client or coworker, a battle with your computer, a project you can’t get your head around? (The computer conflicts, of course, always coinciding with killer deadlines? The printer not wanting to print when you’re about to leave the office?) And how invariably someone will give you unsolicited advice, trying to get you to lighten up, put things in perspective? Then all you want to do is chop their head off too?
Worst part is, they’re always right?!!!!
Once I’m out of the heat of the moment, I can appreciate the guidance from my friends, family and colleagues. Even when they say things you absolutely can’t bear to hear at the time. Like how difficult obstacles help you learn how to handle things better next time. How things you need to work on provide ‘opportunities for growth’ (that standard workplace euphemism). How it’s no big deal and you should even welcome these opportunities because they make you stronger (well, still not sure about that one).
Even Barney, the giant purple and green dinosaur, offered similar words of wisdom in a children’s book – While kids are always growing on the outside, he said, every challenge you face, and every conflict or fear you overcome, helps you grow a little on the inside. (I still jokingly quote that one to 27-year-old daughter Jamie, who I know for a fact is rolling her eyes big time right now.) But maybe everything we need to know we did learn in kindergarten, after all.
A coworker and I joke that we wish we could have more days where we weren’t ‘learning’ so much (like becoming computer ‘workaround’ geniuses for systems that frequently don’t work like they should). And I feel like I must be at least 10 feet tall (like Barney) by the end of some pressure-filled days. Can’t we stay in that frowned upon ‘comfort zones’ once in a while???
I certainly don’t have it all down yet, but wanted to at least share with you some things I’ve learned, and try to put in practice, during my ‘growth opportunities.’ Things that can be even more productive than grunting obscenities, throwing my pen around, slamming down a desk phone and fantasizing about beating up the printer (like they did in the movie Office Space). Hope you find them helpful too:
Thing 1: This is a big one for me – respond don’t react. Don’t shoot off that email (or your mouth) in the heat of the moment. NEVER a good idea! Think it over and through first.
Thing 2: Walk away, literally and/or metaphorically. I’ve found walking away from my cube or outside – just for a few minutes – can really help in stressful situations. Or I will even turn to a totally different, easier assignment in the midst of a pressure-charged project, just long enough to calm down and get my thoughts together and emotions in check (sometimes before the grunting and pen-tossing, sometimes after, but I’m getting there.)
Thing 3: Albert Einstein said: ‘The mind that sees the problem is never the mind that solves the problem.’ John Lennon sang: ‘There are no problems, only solutions.’ See the solution. The desired outcome. Know you can get there. Then think out non-emotional, methodical steps to get you there. (Easier said than done, admittedly, but worth the effort.)
Thing 4: People say it a lot – conflicts with other people are as much about them as you. Someone giving you a hard time is probably having one themselves, or has their own baggage. It doesn’t excuse rude behavior. You can still call them out for it. The important part is to be so o.k. with yourself that their problem or insult doesn’t become your problem or insecurity. And that can help diffuse your own anger or frustration. Again, try to take the emotion out of things.
Thing 5: This is one of my toughest personal challenges: try to leave yourself enough time (and pad it with more time) to get your tasks done comfortably. It at least gives you a fighting chance to stay calm and in control … in spite of the ‘emergencies’ and new priorities that will invariably arise!
Next blog will be The Unoffendable Heart, for real – a perfect follow-up.