Holly is one of my favorite people. She is beautiful, blond, and cheerful. She is very good at what she does, and willingly takes on new assignments and learns new skills. But today wasn't her day.
Her daily work has been a real challenge for her lately. The company where she works is moving locations, and much of the coordination and communication passes through her. Not necessarily because it's her role, either, but often just because she's an easy person to ask.
Many of the people who have been stopping by lately are complainers, though. And they were sucking her dry. I could see through the window of her office that her normally joyful face showed stress and strain, and I hate to see that. So I stepped into her office, slid the door closed, and spent a few minutes encouraging her.
"Everyone is coming to me," she said. "I don't know what to do."
"Holly," I said, "you do not have to take on their negative energy. You can listen to them, tell them that you'll do your best, be cheerful, and let them leave with all that negative energy. You can even wave it out of your office just like this..." and I waved my hands as if moving a mass of energy right out the door.
Then, I promised her a story.
Although today I coach entrepreneurs and consult with businesses regarding their organizations, their marketing, their products, their technology, and designing their own lives, there was a time when I ran operations and customer support for technology companies. We were proud of our products -- even when they weren't perfect -- and we worked really hard to please our customers. Sometimes, though, it didn't work.
I remember the call like it was yesterday. Our Director of Client Care had warned me it was coming. He was the executive for a Fortune 50 company responsible for their on-line presence for which they were using our systems. We were in the middle of a transition, and he wasn't happy. And he was going to make sure I knew it.
It was one of those phone calls you see in the comics. I could put the handset on my desk and hear every word. He was screaming into the phone. Periodically, I would speak calmly into the microphone, "I understand. We will work through that issue. ..." and so on.
I'm not sure that he liked my calm. I'm sure that he wanted me to either scream back at him or start screaming at staff to do things. But by this point I had learned a few things about leadership, and one of them was that staying calm leads to better decisions and better results. I knew that would be the key to our success in this, whether he liked it or not.
So, I let him scream at me until he ran out of bluster. I reassured him that we were working on his sites, and that we would meet our commitments. I thanked him for calling and let him know we'd speak soon.
When I looked up, my entire staff was outside the door. Seems they could hear his raving from their desks! They came to see how I'd respond. I called them all in and said, "What we do isn't life and death. It's important to our customers, and we need to keep it in perspective. But, we stay calm and do what we can do." We continued the conversation for a while, coming up with specifics about how to help our client. But, the key was that we stayed calm and focused and didn't take on the panic and emotion. It never works, although many people try to convince themselves that it's "motivation." It's not. It's just fear. And it doesn't lead to healthy living. Although it does help you to fight or fly.
But, that's not life.
And your life is yours to design.
Every moment of every day is your choice. No one else's. Yours. You decide. Your attitude is your choice. How you respond is your choice. How you live each day is your choice.
Like Holly, you don't need to take on another's negative energy. You can send it right out with them.
PS We'll talk more about designing your life. Let me know if you have any other topics on your mind. And know that you can grow through my books and coaching here: http://stephenhultquist.com/.