I’m a Jerk.

Each weekday I share a lesson I have learned in life. Here is today’s lesson.

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I do not like to have my work interrupted. I do not like to be told I “need” to do something (as in, “You need to listen when I talk…”). I love my pets but I am quickly frustrated by their bad behavior (like barfing up a hairball on my bed or having a potty accident on the carpet). Anyone transferring their emotions to me is infuriating (i.e. blaming me for how you feel). I have been known to “drop” my phone (against the wall at about 40 miles per hour) for being irritated that it will not perform some simple task correctly (probably due to an app not being updated or general user error).

The point is, most people know me as generally cool, calm, and collected most of the time, but I have buttons. And when they are pressed, I see red. I can go from being a nice guy to a jerk in no time. Luckily, I have enough tricks up my sleeve to keep me from doing any real damage to myself or life and these days, even most electronic products. I am also quite resilient and tend to get over things (including myself) fast. I can be authentically smiling and calm again within minutes.

The secret, I think, to getting over frustration is three-fold. Here is what works for me.

1.  Context and Self-Respect. By putting a situation in perspective and reminding myself who I am, I can almost always regain self-control. For example, when my puppy has an accident, it resets our potty training and makes me feel guilty, angry, and generally like a “bad parent” (I totally understand the irony of the emotional transference complaint I listed at the top). My anger jumps from zero to about thirteen in less than a heartbeat. Sometimes I am able to catch it by quickly reminding myself the dog is a dog. It has a hundred times less brain power and emotional content and is only doing what a dog does (context–can’t be mad at a dog for being a dog). I have to remind myself I can not let a puppy take control of my life since he is relying on me to be in control (self-respect–my job is to lead “the pack” and what kind of leader demoralizes his followers by yelling or throwing a tantrum?).

 2.  Chase the goal, not the emotions. As new puppy parents, sometimes Nicole and I disagree on how to approach a situation we haven’t encountered before. For example, the dog care books say you have to take your puppy out and socialize to acclimate it to other dogs and people quickly. Our puppy is behind schedule on his vaccinations, though, due to being sick, and the general advice is to keep him away from other dogs and dog areas. What do we do? Regardless of the answer, you can imagine the conversation can quickly become emotionally charged. To defuse my misaligned passion, I remind myself our goal is the same: we want what is best for the puppy. I may not agree on the approach but just knowing the destination is the same will often help us find a good landing spot, even if the landing is bumpy.

3.  Remember who you are dealing with.  Whether it is your boss, a friend, a sibling, or even a brand, I find an easy way to wrangle my would-be emotional outbursts is to remind myself of the importance of this (person, product, place) in my life. When I am snippy with Nicole (and I know it), I remind myself she is the love of my life. There is no reason to be short-tempered with her because she is the best thing about waking up each day. Why tarnish that because I am feeling snotty? Same with other people, places, and things. My emotions are on me. The situation might be our problem but my emotional approach is my problem and mine alone. That means there are often two problems to solve at the same time, so better take the one I have immediate control over out of the mix as quickly as I can.

 

Of course, I’m not perfect. Sometimes my mouth out runs my brain or sometimes I have just “had enough” and take a firm stand on something stupid (“I will NOT put the cap back on the toothpaste because I LIKE the mess it leaves!”). More often than not, I am glad to say, remembering those 3 tips help me minimize those moments and maximize my relationships in the world.

Hope they help you too!

 

 

 

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Bad Days Are Good Days, Too.

Today’s Lesson: Cherish all the moments–we run out of them at some point. The bad ones come and go just as quickly as the good ones and when they’re gone… they’re gone.

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Some days you feel grumpy, upset, frustrated, angry, irritated, depressed, sad, agitated, pissed off, vengeful, spiteful, envious, and exacerbated… and then by noon you feel okay, and then by the end of the day, you are back to any one or all of those feelings.

The tragedy of having a (long, frustrating, stressful, bad, etc.) day is the people closest to you bear the brunt of it. Not because they caused any of those feelings but rather only because of their proximity to the blast zone.

Here is the thing: that’s life. Some days are better than others. If every day was perfect, then perfect would become normal and unremarkable, and so would life. Who would want to live it? The unpredictability and volatility of relationships and circumstances are what make the good parts really good and the tough parts really tough.

The secret, I think, is to understand and cherish both. When your partner lets it out–tears or shouts, whimpering or cursing, hiding or hurting, or all those at once–understand you are seeing something rare. We are privy, in those moments, to the weaknesses or fears or quiet solemn resolve of others–the side of someone almost no one else gets to see. I think that is something to respect and honor in those moments.

(Gentlemen, I am talking mainly to you–when your partner lets her guard down, don’t roll your eyes or wonder how long the crying will last–honor the moment and hold her tight. She is choosing to trust you with tears she would not deem worthy of showing someone else. Ladies, you probably know this but the same goes double for when your partner lets down their guard.)

Cherish all the moments, and remember, the bad ones always end in breakthroughs–one way or the other, you learn and move forward–until the day you stop dead.

 

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How to Tactfully Challenge Your Boss (2 of 5)

Question from a reader: “Do you have a blog post on ‘How to tactfully challenge your leader or something like that?” Why, yes. Yes, I do. In fact, we have 5 now!

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((Read part 1.))

I have been there. My boss asks me to do something that seems bad for business, for my team, or frankly, just sounds like a bad idea. I want to speak up (and my peers are counting on me to) but I am not sure how to approach my boss without the situation blowing up.

Every boss and every working relationship is different, of course, but I can offer five tips that helped me keep the peace while challenging the status quo so far in my career:

2 (of 5). Keep your emotions out of it. When your boss asks you to do something you think is stupid or not in your best interest, probably two things are happening. The first is, your boss likely struck a nerve that makes you feel intimidated by the request or demand (which probably means it will lead to personal growth–something we all react to with initial resistance). The other thing that happens is it becomes an interruption to your emotional comfort zone, which means you are going to feel emotional about it. The problem with acting on your emotions is they are sometimes misplaced or out of proportion to the actual problem.

We sometimes become irrationally mad at inanimate objects that do not act differently than they have acted before (I am prone to be angry at my phone when it runs slowly–something it sometimes does yet I am always surprised and angered by until I reign in my emotions). When I react emotionally, I am giving away my power and authority to random chemicals and inciting the other person to do the same. Soon, any actual conversation has ended and we are both only trying to out-emotion each another (whoever seems angriest wins). The actual problem is never solved. The only resolution is the contest of emotions is over and ultimately my boss has the trump card on that anyway.

You can not control or dictate the emotions of someone else but the calmer and cooler you remain the more you signal the other person to do the same and the more power you gain in the conversation.

 

Today’s Lesson: Some people think power is loud and boisterous. Power is the opposite. It is the quiet, calm collection of thoughts and precision placement of words and influence. Before any storm, there is always the Calm.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you what your boss can’t or won’t.

 

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Am I Angry At You?

Words are powerful. It is fun to take a close look at how we use them.

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I find it interesting that we say things like, “I am angry at you!” AT you? We feel angry at a person or towards something. We are in love with somebody.

Our relationship to emotions is curious. We expel them from our bodies as if they are projectiles that we can throw at other people like baseballs. I am mad at you! The thing is, we let emotions live in our language in such a way that we are absolved of our responsibility for feeling them. We never say, “I am Anger now!”. Yet, curiously, we do say, “I am happy.” Perhaps we find it easier to accept we are present and in sync with a positive feeling but negative emotions happen to us.

Either way, think about how you use language to convey both the feelings you expel to others and accept from them, and listen to the language you use when defining your own emotions.

 

Today’s lesson: It is okay to feel emotions. Do not let yourself off the hook, however, for feeling them. Be conscious of the words you use to share your feelings. The onus is on you to take responsibility for who you are, not on others to accept you for who you feel like being.

 

 

 

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