The worst two years of my life

“It was the worst two years of my life,” he said.  We all have years like that, times we would rather forget, places we never revisit in our minds.

Recently, I was able to catch up with a former colleague. Not just any former officemate, but someone who had made a difference in my life – made me a better person, improved my perspective on the world in general. You know the type, the go-to person in your organization, the recognized leader whether boss or peer.  Unfortunately, they are rare.  Yet fortunately for me, I can count a handful over the years.

On my way to a degree in organizational management, we talked about these folks, learned they were not necessarily the ones with the title (although they can be) but the ones with competence, professionalism, character – the real leaders regardless of rank – the influencers.

It is always a good idea to be on cordial terms with coworkers.  Just like houseguests, some make us happy by their coming and others by their going. According to a textbook with the scary title, “Praxis of Organizational Health,” research shows it is the people you work with who govern your perception of whether you rank it a good job or a bad job.

I spent a few years working alongside a boss who was so diplomatic it was said he could tell someone they were wrong and do it in such a way they left feeling complimented. You naturally want to keep touch with someone like that, to continue to enjoy the mentorship crumbs that fall from the table.

I am also fortunate to have had colleagues who made a job bearable because of their presence, demeanor, personality, sense of humor, and commitment to excellence. Such was the colleague with whom I recently reconnected. I attempted to convey my gratitude for his positive influence.

“Thank you for saying that,” he responded with quiet emotion, “those were the worst two years of my life.”

Yet, during those same two years, he had made my job covetable. I want to be like that.  I want it to be inherent in my character.

Heartaches happen; losses, divorces, deaths, illnesses, false accusations, rejections – the worst year or years of our life (may they be kept to a minimum).

Even in my own misery, I want to go on making the world a better place for others.



Small talk is just good manners

Confession.  In my youth I frequently thought saying the right thing was phony. Making small talk was shallow.  As a young adult, conditioned response -saying the right thing – was critical to growing a business – chit chat the only way a salesperson could survive.  Later still, while working in radio, it was essential to say the right thing, to carefully choose vocabulary to suit the news. Good customer service is comprised of using affirming words to speak truthfully. In leadership, teaching, parenting, the adult is responsible for choosing words that uplift and motivate.

But saying the right thing is more than just an adult responsibility. Saying the right thing at the right time is just plain good manners – audible vocalization of the golden rule. Say what needs to be said.  Say the right thing.  Say it with truth and affirmation. Live authentically.  Say you’re sorry.  Say I love you. It’s just good manners.

A Positive Influence

I love the words, influence and negotiation. Influence makes the world a better place. The desired outcome of negotiation is a win-win for all parties concerned.  I have a thirst for Knowledge and Information.  Knowledge and Information lead to success in life.

But when influence is used chiefly to get one’s own way rather than for the positive benefit of the world at large, there is a line where the influence of leadership or the influence of friendship crosses into manipulation, manipulation to intimidation, intimidation to coercion.

Disparaging, shaming, insulting, uncomfortable to receive; manipulation and intimidation shut down choice.  Sometimes, the only label we know to put on it is political. Office politics. Family politics.

The Influence Junkie hatches an idea and sets about to confirm the validity of his or her idea by how many people can be talked into jumping on the bandwagon.  Having fanned the flame, the influence junkie walks away triumphant -may even forget the idea – while keeping the feeling of victory and leaving in their wake some sensitive and fragile folks feeling obligated.  Others are depleted for having had to defer or outright decline.

When you tried to negotiate with me, did you let it dissolve into shame, name-calling or manipulation?  If so, you lost a piece of your character and I received a wound.  That is not win-win.

When you meant to influence me to see it your way, did you respect my opinion? Or were you meddling?  Did you resort to irritation and anger, or infer I was bird-brained, because I did not agree with you?

Keep it positive and we will have a more excellent relationship.

Information and Knowledge influence. Gossip is not the same as Information and Knowledge. Gossip bullies are adept at spreading hoax, rumor and panic.  Gossip bullies get overwrought by something they hear on the news or the grapevine. Soaring on the yeast of self-righteousness, the gossip spreads the word and walks away feeling uplifted.  They have done their duty for the cause.

Caution:  Surgical mask required for great relationships. People around you whose emotional systems have been compromised are struggling to manage depression, other mental illnesses, migraines and high blood pressure. Keep that guard over your mouth.

Healthy influence makes the world a better place.

The outcome of healthy negotiation is win-win.

The value of amassing information and knowledge lies in a deeper understanding.

Influence. Negotiate.  Inform. Teach.  Refrain from berating – and that will lead to more excellent relationships.