This sounds so easy, but can be much harder in practice. You know you have said things, likely out loud, when driving and some car cut you off. Maybe you would say it to the person when you end up next to each other at a traffic light or not. People who do are risking their life because they let their emotions get the best of them. Other situations may not have the physical risks of road rage, but they instead have personal and professional risks.
This easily can happen in the workplace, whether with co-workers or, if you deal with them like I do, opposing attorneys. When dealing with a jerk it can be hard to stop yourself from reacting. Before acting on emotion, try to think whether how you really want to respond will (1) benefit you; (2) reflect on you; (3) affect your dealings with the jerk in the future; and, if applicable, help you help your client. If you do this it’s likely you will not be baited to respond in kind. It may even make the jerk realize they’re not getting a rise out of you and they may mellow out then or in future dealings.
Keeping emotions in check can be difficult. If you know it is for you, you should come up with strategies to help you when you find yourself in a situation where being a jerk is an option (which really means in any communication you have with anyone). Examples could include nicely exiting the conversation, taking deep breaths while the other person is speaking (obviously works best if you’re on the phone or dealing with written communications), or come up with a catchphrase or mantra you can tell yourself with the hope to de-escalate the situation or conversation. Maybe you can use “serenity now” like Frank Costanza on Seinfeld:
The point is to not let yourself be drawn into situations that can reflect badly on you, your co-workers, or your client. It may feel good in the moment to yell back or insult someone, but once the moment passes it probably will be something you wish you had handled better.
Monday night I watched the college football National Championship game between Alabama and Georgia. You probably know (or in case you don’t) Georgia won after it looked like their quarterback fumbled away the game with around 11 minutes to go in the game by playing great defense and the quarterback stepping up and seemingly willing his team’s offense to play better. Why am I telling you this? Because after Georgia won, quarterback Stetson Bennett was interviewed and in response to how he lead his team back he said “Just keep fighting. Keep your mouth shut. Work hard. Life is tough, you just have to fight through it.” That’s right, wisdom from the mouth of a 23 year old college quarterback that applies to all of us.
He could have given up after his costly mistake. He let his team down, as well as himself. When the camera showed him you could tell he was upset. But the next time he had the ball in his hands he went 3-3 in passing taking his team 76 yards in 4 plays for a touchdown to retake the lead. Of course football is a team sport and the defense stepped up and did its part too.
Most of us work on teams and know you need all hands on deck to be successful. What if one of your team members isn’t pulling their weight? They could be lazy, still learning, or just out sick. Do you focus on that or do you see the deadline looming and rally the team to stop complaining and get the work done? There are times you just have to fight through the noise and focus with the end in mind.
Maybe your the team member letting others down. Maybe you have something going on in your personal life or are unhappy you were passed over for a promotion given to someone you think didn’t deserve it over you. Whatever is happening, focus and fight your way through. Complaining about anything is noise and distraction, and will never get you your desired result. Passed over for the promotion? Show them why they made a mistake through your actions. It goes further than telling someone they were wrong and will have better results in the future.
We all have moments we can choose to sit down and wait for the next chance or fight, keep our mouth shut, and work hard. It’s obviously better to be recognized as someone who will not give up in the face of adversity. Whoever your work helps will notice, be it co-workers and superiors, clients, or someone else. Doing so may not result in you holding a national championship trophy like Stetson, but odds are you will feel just as good by knowing you gave your all and did the best you can.
I heard someone say this on a podcast and it stuck with me. It is a way to reframe the narrative of change as we enter the new year or at any time. The point is to spend more time looking forward than obsessing on the past.
Did you have a good 2021 professionally? If so, will you keep doing what you did or seek to improve on your success? If not, will you spend time thinking of what could or should have been, or spend more time looking to make 2022 a better year. I’m talking about a mindset, which is in your power and under your control.
This doesn’t mean assessing past success or failure is a waste of time or not helpful. Of course it is. You can learn from either. But once you make assessments, look at how it relates to what you do next instead of dwelling on past achievements or lack thereof. Looking forward keeps your eyes on the path you are taking.
Life is continuing road and narrative. You get to decide whether you’re the narrator or someone else is. If you don’t plan the road ahead of you the future will happen anyway, and it likely will be driven and narrated by others instead of you.
Take control of what is your story. Learn from your successes and failures or observing those of others around you, but know you’re not held hostage by what has happened in the past. You have the choice to make the new year or any time good. It means you have to take action, look forward, and act to make good things happen.