We all have challenges. Some of them we chose ourselves and some we didn’t. Everyone around us has challenges as well. We didn’t choose their challenges for them, but we can choose not to be a challenge for them.
Have you ever had the experience of trying to work with someone who, it seemed, just wanted to be a challenge for you? You know, just wanted to make your life harder for no apparent reason? I’ve run on to this from time to time either at stores I’ve shopped at, random people I’ve worked with, or even everyday people I’ve casually run on to. It makes me wonder why they want to do that. What’s happened in their life that’s made them want to give someone grief today? I’m sure there are a million reasons, and maybe some of them might be good. But it’s enough for me to take the attitude that I’m not knowingly going to be someone’s challenge today.
When it is obvious someone is trying to be your challenge, they may not be aware of what they are bringing on to themselves. People lose respect for them, don’t want to work with them again, or don’t want to do business with them, or lose a relationship because of that behavior.
Now, I understand that we all have to make a stand, draw a line in the sand, or follow certain rules. That’s not bad. But if we cop an attitude to go along with it, we look like jerks in most people’s eyes.
Whether it’s a business relationship, working with a coworker, talking with a child or your spouse, why not work with them instead of being their challenge. The one giving help and the one getting it both gain so much more. When I’ve tried to work with someone rather than be their challenge, even if it wasn’t easy, I’ve walked away feeling like I at least took the high road. At best I gained more respect for them and myself and helped someone along the way.
Don’t be their challenge. Help someone in their challenge.
I remember the light going on when Tim Vitale, my journalism professor at Utah State, told us how to write. “Just the facts!” he said. That was all we were supposed to focus on. This is the ideal journalist. No spin. No agenda. Just getting the who, what, where, when, why and how of a story reported to the reader. I’ve reflected since then on how that is so applicable to solving problems.
I have the fortunate situation to have never had an argument with my wife. And that sentence doesn’t end with “that I won, hahaha” rimshot. We’ve never argued because somehow we’ve been able to take the emotions out of about any given conflict or difference of opinion that has come up. Somehow, whenever there’s a conflict of opinion or interest, my wife and I have this ability to pull out the emotion and place it somewhere outside the conversation. In the meantime the focus is on the facts – the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the conflict. A mutual decision is based on those facts, then any positive emotion can get put back in and away we go. This seems pretty simple, I know. For some it’s easier than others, but with practice you can get there.
It’s amazing how many conflicts get worse when decisions are based on the heat of the moment or the emotion of the time. If we can somehow take a deep breath, remove emotions for a few minutes and talk about the facts, so many more decisions would be more easily decided and positive outcomes would result.
Now, let’s not sugar coat it. After the decision, realities still have to be faced, tough phone calls may still need to be made, but at least that conflict was handled with a level head and a balanced approach. I’ve seen this work at home, at work, and a number of other places. This kind of approach helps you leave a tough decision behind because your focus and decision was based on “just the facts.”
Living in the Rocky Mountains, I’ve noticed a funny thing that happens about every year. It snows. Sometimes a lot. Something else that happens along with it. People complain about it. Sometimes a lot. My first thought toward them is usually “Well, move to Florida then.” But that’s usually kind of rude and not very practical for most people. Now, I’m sure there are a number of reasons to hate snow and winter, like it’s bad to drive in, its cold, it brings my vitamin D level down, I have to shovel the stuff, etc. Although all valid reasons, it amazes me that people are in such a habit of complaining about it every year. Why can’t they do something about it instead? If you live in it, why not make the most of it? Find something that you enjoy about winter time and do it. It doesn’t even have to be in the snow or outside. Pick up a new indoor hobby or game and get someone that will be a part of it. When we get in patterns of complaining, especially on an annual basis, it takes a toll on us that is unhealthy and unnecessary. If you don’t like it, do something about it.
This is a question I’ve asked my kids for years -“Who are you in charge of?” The answer that they’ve come to know is “myself”. That’s right, you’re in charge of you and no one else. I’ve mostly asked them this when there’s a “she’s touching me” or “he’s not playing with me” situation. I try to get them to think about how they can change their attitude or the situation because they’re the one in charge of it. I see this in everyday people as well. As I work with people who have problems, many times they blame something or someone for their plight. If they would just think about who they are in charge of and that they have the power to either change the situation or have a better attitude about it, the situation would almost immediately improve. Not wanting to be a hypocritical Dad, I’ve put it to the test myself. It’s an awesome thing to watch how my day improves if I take responsibility for what just happened or what is ahead of me. It’s an empowering feeling. So next time you’re down about something, ask yourself the question and see how you can improve it by realizing you’re in charge of you and the attitudes and situations you have.