Before You Respond Negatively…

Have you ever received a negative or unkind email from a friend or family member?  I’m talking about from people who don’t normally send emails like that.

My wife and other members of her family received an email from one of her siblings recently, expressing their displeasure over how a current family situation is being handled.  The sibling’s email expressed blame and disappointment at family members and was not well received.

It would be so easy to let emotion take the lead, and respond negatively to this email. However, all that usually proves to do is make the situation worse.

I’ve written in a previous blog that there is a space between a stimulus (like a negative email) and our response to it.  I think this is some important to remember, especially when we may be feeling emotionally charged or fired up by a stimulus.

As I was talking to my wife about the email, I began wondering caused them to send the email.  What was the reason?  I wondered what they were dealing with that caused them to send the email.  Perhaps the family situation was causing the sibling to feel:

  • Fear
  • Regret
  • Anger
  • Hopelessness
  • Shame
  • Helplessness
  • Frustration
  • Guilt

Maybe I’m wrong, but I would guess that most negative emails are sent, not because the sender is a jerk, but because the sender is feeling one or more of the emotions above.  Perhaps even some additional emotions not listed.  I certainly think this is the case with my wife’s sibling. As I look at the email from this angle, it’s easy to see the sender, not as a jerk, but as a hurting human being.

The next time you receive a negative email, phone message, or any other form of communication, try to look past what’s being said and see if you can determine why it was delivered.  What is the sender dealing with?  Are there certain feelings and emotions in play?  Are they struggling, hurting, or making a poor attempt express a thought our concern?

Avoid the desire to be negative and lash out in return.  You just may save a relationship.

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Comfort and Order

“Humans are designed to seek comfort an order, and if they have comfort and order, they tend to plant themselves, even if their comfort isn’t all that comfortable.  And even if they secretly want something better”

Donald Miller

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

 

I was half way through Donald Miller’s book (pg. 100) when I read those words above.  I found them to be both haunting and eye-opening.  They’re haunting, because I’ve been in this exact scenario for many years, and eye-opening, because it finally feels like the root cause to one of my primary struggles has been revealed.

I find it extremely easy to put off making a change when I’m comfortable or complacent in my current situation.  I’ve been struggling with making a career change for many years.  I currently work in Information Technology, but my preference is to work with people, rather than with hardware, software, and systems.  I’ve wanted to make a change for several years, but I’ve made minimal progress.  Often, weeks or months go by without me having done one thing to move closer to a new career.  I know what I’d like to be doing, but I find it easy to put off taking action, primarily because my current situation isn’t all that bad.  It’s comfortable enough to keep me from taking decisive action toward bringing about the career change I desire.

I knew this, to a certain degree, about myself, and could observe this scenario in my own life.  However, reading Miller’s words, that so clearly articulate this concept, it felt like a harsh slap or glass of cold water thrown in my face.  As if my mind was screaming, “He’s describing you!”

After reading those words, I’ve been keenly aware when I’m letting comfort and complacency chart my course.  It gets me fired up, because I can’t think of a single time in my life when I was driven by comfort and complacency, that it ever led me anywhere significant.

How about you?  Are there any areas in your life where you’re actions, or lack of actions, are being driven by the desire to maintain comfort and order?  Is the desire for comfort and order taking you where you really want to go in life?  If you’re struggling in this area, join me in taking the following actions:

  1. When you feel yourself being motivated by the desire to maintain comfort, acknowledge it. Call it out right there on the spot and say, “I’m not letting comfort chart my course any longer!”
  2. Think about the next step you need to take toward a goal or path you’ve set.
  3. Take that next step. It doesn’t matter how small a step it is; take it!
  4. Repeat the process as often as necessary

I don’t think we were designed to live lives that were above all, comfortable.  I think we’re at our best when we’re growing, improving, and pursuing the goals we’ve set for ourselves.

Decide today to stop letting comfort keep you from pursuing a remarkable, fulfilling life.  All you have to lose is the discomfort of being comfortably stuck.

The Intersection

On Monday evening January 12th Ohio State played the University of Oregon for the College Football National Championship in Dallas Texas.  What struck me most about the game was not the score or the collective ability of each team, but the very clear life lesson that was on display during the game.  The lesson was that great things happen at the intersection of preparation and opportunity.

Although I was rooting for the University of Oregon, myself being from Oregon, I was really impressed with the performance of the Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones.

Consider this:

  • The National Championship game was only his the 3rd college start as quarterback
  • At the beginning of the season, he was the 3rd string quarterback on his team

I was amazed by these facts while watching the game.  While on the biggest stage in college football, Jones showed the command and poise of a seasoned quarterback.  He didn’t look like a 3rd string quarterback, or someone who had only started 3 games.  He looked like he belonged there.  Was he perfect?  No.  Did he make mistakes?  For sure!  However, he was able to step in for his team when his number was called late in the season and perform extremely well.  Well enough to help win a National Championship.

It is obvious from his performance that he had been practicing and preparing for the opportunity.  His preparation intersected with his opportunity, and great things happened.

If Jones hadn’t been diligent in practice while he was still the 3rd string quarterback, he never would have done so well when he got the nod to lead the offense.  Imagine what a different outcome Jones would have had if he had said, “Once I’m the starting quarterback, then I’ll really start practicing!  However, since I’m only the 3rd string, there’s really no point in doing my best at practice.”  Jones had great performances during his 3 starts because he put in the effort to prepare himself in practice; to be ready for the opportunity, even when he didn’t see one or know that one was coming.

What about you?  Are there areas where you need to begin preparing for a future opportunity?  Is there a class you need to take, a habit or discipline you need to develop or stop?  Is there a reading, networking, exercise, or eating plan you need to get on?  If so, begin today.  Don’t’ delay and think, “I’ll start preparing when I see an opportunity.”  That kind of thinking leaves out half of the intersection equation:  There can be no greatness-causing intersection between preparation and opportunity if opportunity shows up alone.

So begin preparing today for the opportunities you seek in the future.  My guess is that, if you’re preparing, the opportunities are closer than you think.

Filling in the Blanks

I’m currently reading a very interesting book by Cleveland Clinic’s Customer Experience Officer James Merlino, MD titled, “Service Fanatics:  How to Build Superior Patient Experience the Cleveland Clinic Way”.  In the book, Dr. Merlino discusses the different aspects of providing a quality experience for the clinic’s patients.  One section that I found particularly interesting was the reality that when patients lack information, they tend to fill in the blanks.

Dr. Merlino talks about how a patient that has been admitted to a hospital most likely has all day to lay there and think almost exclusively about their condition and the illness or injury that ails them.  Their condition is likely the “big thing” on their mind, causing them to think about how it may affect their future, what could go wrong, or a host of other concerns.

As a result, patients are eager for information from doctors and other care givers about their condition and in the absence of information from their caregivers, patients start to fill in the blanks for themselves.  If the patient had a test that the doctor ordered, and they haven’t received the results from their doctor shortly thereafter, they may start to wonder whether the doctor has received the results or whether the results showed something bad that the doctor isn’t telling them or a whole host of other, usually negative, scenarios.

This got me thinking, although I’m not a doctor, have I ever caused someone to fill in the blanks because they were waiting for a response from me regarding a topic that was extremely urgent or important to them?  I’m sure I have.  I’m also reminded that what may seem normal, routine, or of low priority to one person may be totally new uncharted and even scary territory for someone else.

As we’re going through life and setting our priorities at work, home, and in our communities, let’s be aware of those we’re interacting with and scenarios they’re facing.  If they’re facing something critical and need information from us, let’s provide it quickly.  If we can’t provide it quickly, let’s at least keep people informed on our progress, so they’re not left to fill in the blanks.

What Football Can Teach Us About Goal Setting – Part 2

There was some good college bowl games played on New Year’s Day 2015!  Ohio State and Alabama played a close game in the Sugar Bowl that went down to the last play, and Oregon dismantled Florida State in the Rose Bowl, breaking a Florida State 29 game winning streak in the process.  Despite the differences in each game, there was one aspect that was exactly the same:  Each team knew the significance of the goal line.

I love the name:  “goal line”.  It very clearly states the objective of the entire game for each team, no matter what side of the ball they’re on.  For the offense, the objective is to cross the goal line and score points for your team.  For the defense, the objective is to keep your opponent from crossing the goal line and scoring.

The goal line is a very clearly defined critical reference point that each team is striving to cross or protect.  There is no question from anyone, on either team, as to the objective of the game and the goal they’re working toward.

Imagine if there was no goal line in football.  The game would be confusing and chaotic, with no one really knowing what they were supposed to be doing or what the objective of the game was.  It can be like that in our own lives without clearly defined goals.  If we don’t know what goal lines we want to cross for our lives in 2015, we will be unclear and confused as to our daily direction.  In addition, unless we’re content just drifting through the year like a leaf in a stream, going wherever the current takes us, we’re going to be disappointed on December 31st 2015 when we realize we haven’t made any progress or significant changes in our life.

What goal lines have you defined for yourself for 2015?  Do you know what you’re moving toward achieving throughout 2015?   If so, great!  Begin taking steps every day to move ever closer to crossing your goal line.  If you haven’t determined what your goal lines for 2015 are, it’s not too late.  Spend some time deciding what you’d like to accomplish this year and clearly define what success in those areas looks like for you.  The definitions you create will be your goal lines.  Your objective for the year will be to make incremental progress toward crossing them.