I had a meeting earlier this week which has caused a lot of fallout in my personal and professional life, in the best possible way. I’m not at liberty to discuss a number of the subjects, much as I’d love to (because it’s exciting, but confidential) but there are a number of things that seem worth sharing.
This meeting was a rather big milestone for me; it put me in front of a goal that I’ve had for ages, and really showed me how little I know about what I’m doing – and also given me some hope that my approach to life will be absolutely perfect for what I plan. Have you ever had that kind of reassurance? It’s powerful stuff.
It’s also made me reconsider the way I phrase a number of my common arguments, and the angle from which I present some facts about myself and my history. Verbiage has a lot of power – anyone who writes knows this, but how much credence do we give phraseology in speech? The unfortunate truth is that fact doesn’t always cut it, and even worse, the very words you consider to be great presentation of fact can be thoroughly misleading if you don’t speak the exact dialect of the people you’re talking to!
If you’ve watched any of the videos I’ve posted, you’ll see fairly clearly that I like to shoot from the hip. I can’t rehearse, I’ve tried. When I recorded my video review of Six Pixels of Separation, I did two takes before the one that posted – and the one that made it was literally begun in the middle of a rant explaining to my wife what I thought of the book.
I’m better at being reactive when in person. When the delay of text exists, I come off strikingly different because my words, my actions – all of my lexical body language has a wonderfully delayed, considered flavour. Even in text messages. Even in instant messages. I look extremely good on paper (or screens) for reasons not accounted for by external qualification. I used to lay it down to being just the way I’m wired, but I’m starting to realize the power in laying claim to expertise in this respect.
But how much benefit does this reactivity actually provide?
Acting in a reactive manner lets me do some superb things. It lets me produce two thousand words of blog and novel a night, in about an hour each at most, and keep up a certain level of quality. Being reactive also lets me respond to tense situations with a little more grace than many people of my temperament (INFP) and keep my head when people get on my nerves.
However, it also means that I miss things sometimes. Like tone. And verbiage. This is important, because I try hard to stick to facts, but unfortunately, fact is difficult to quantify when stuck in a reactive posture. And if you can’t quantify, or qualify your facts, then your verbiage will suffer. And if your verbiage suffers, your arguments will too.
Where did this lesson come from? Simple; I answered a question in a way that placed all responsibility on someone else’s shoulders. The facts, as I presented them, did this for me. The trouble was that I was reacting to the question, rather than responding (which is more powerful once you get the hang of it). The reaction was to drop dead facts about what directly affected an important event in my life about a year ago. It sounded like abdication of responsibility, and it was – sort of.
Here’s the short of it. I put myself in a situation I thought was beneficial, which was climbing the ranks to run a store of my own. I was removed from that position for reasons – which were written into an exit letter – that have since proven to be total bullpucky. But I’m still (for now) with the same company. Sounds like a “Kick me twice” situation, right? It is.
And it’s also not. The hard truth lies in the facts I related. The real truth is that the situation was not beneficial. Managing the store was not like managing a project; it removed me from everything I loved about the job; day to day merchandising tasks, much of the tracking, the teaching of new employees, and above all, interacting with customers. So, in this respect, as much as getting demoted sucks, I found swiftly that I welcomed the return to my previous position, because it was everything I love about being in retail. It sucks being removed when you’re pulling off 30% sales gains in an industry of 10% average losses – but that wasn’t the point I made in the meeting, and it’s not the point that matters to my life, or why I chose to stay on.
There are two lessons here. Can you see both of them?
The first, obviously, comes from how we react to difficult questions. The obvious caution is to remove emotion from the response, and relay fact as-we-see-it. This causes issues, because what we think are pertinent, salient facts often come off as either passing the buck, or a lack of understanding of the situation. The real caution ought to be that we need to consider better what our answers are sourced from; “fact” or emotion and result.
The second lesson, then, speaks to how we perceive the events that shape our lives. The short effect was that I lose a valuable position and regained a joyous one. But I missed most of this, because by now I take that exchange for granted, and as inconsequential to my future endeavours. The long effect was that being removed from the unneeded responsibility (which wasn’t worth the money) freed me up to consider, and wait, and weigh all of the opportunities I put myself in front of, and make sure that the ones I act on are of real benefit, and will provide what the theoretical benefit of being in power did not; joy in my professional life.
And now it’s paying off. My ducks are lined up.
Are yours? And, if they are, how will you communicate that when given the chance?