In organizations, we tend to focus on what is going wrong instead of what is going right. When we fail to pay attention to what’s going well, it can evaporate quickly.
— Karen Snyder
For more of Karen’s workplace wisdom, check out her book Eating Worms: Practicing Leadership Every Day.
On April 28, 2018, I was driving home from a speaking engagement with the Training Officers Consortium. I spoke on how to resolve conflict in the workplace and then I packed up my bags and started driving. It was pouring; not one of those gentle spring rains, but a deluge of water making it difficult to see and drive.
I stopped for gas along the road and then I continued my journey. As a treat for taking the trip and conducting the program, I decided to reward myself with a little shopping adventure on the route home. I had been shopping for about an hour when my phone rang.
“Hello, is this Karen Snyder? This is Ella Franz and I have your wallet,” said the older, shaky voice on the other end.
“Oh, I don’t think so,” I replied. “I have my purse right here.”
She proceeded by telling me my own address and phone number. I moved all the clothes I had been trying on out of the way and started searching through my purse, which is a rather oversized and overstuffed bag. No wallet.
“How did you find me?” I asked.
“We called our friend. He’s good with computers and he found your website and your phone number.”
“How kind of you.” I babbled feeling overwhelmed with gratitude, while also embarrassed and annoyed at myself for losing the wallet and not believing her when she said she had it.
Ella explained that they were snowbirds, in their eighties and they were making the trip from Florida to New York. She then said, “We found your wallet on the pavement when we stopped for gas. We didn’t want to just turn it in because we wanted to be sure it got to you. Can you meet us at the rest stop? We will wait for you there.”
I looked at my GPS and realized that if I drove hastily, in the pouring rain, it would take me an hour to reach Ella and her husband. I didn’t want to hold up this sweet couple for so long. I suggested, “Is there a Fed Ex near you? You could mail it to me and I would pay the charges.”
I could hear Ella asking her husband if he knew of a FedEx and he did not. I suggested that she “Google it” and she replied that they didn’t have a computer. I said, “Well, if you don’t know about a FedEx office, should I assume you don’t know of a UPS office either?”
“No honey, I do not,” Ella retorted. “We will just wait here until you arrive. We only have about another 8 hours before we get home.”
Of course when I got to Ella and her husband at a rest stop off of I-95 near Fredericksburg, Virginia, they were as sweet and kind as she sounded on the phone. My wallet had all the cash and cards, just as when I had last seen it. I was scheduled to fly to the West Coast the next day for another speaking engagement and because of her honesty and kindness, my plans were not altered.
I hear people say that honesty, integrity, and kindness are gone, but that is simply not true. Give this question some thought: Who are the “Ellas” in your life? What chance encounters have you experienced that made an impact for the positive? Who do you look up to and count on in your personal life? Is there someone at work who helped you manage a challenging situation just because it was the right thing to do? Instead of focusing on the times when we have been disappointed, why don’t we retell the stories of honesty, integrity, and kindness over and over and over again.
And let’s make a real effort to be someone else’s “Ella.” I think that we will see our personal and professional lives transform for the better!
“Complaining about a problem without posing a solution is called whining.” — Theodore Roosevelt
Research shows that habitual complaining affects us mentally, emotionally, and physically. Complaints are negative by nature and expressing that negativity generally does not make us feel better. It also tends to make those listening to us feel worse. Complaining may cause or worsen stress, sapping our energy and our desire to pursue our dreams.
Repeated complaining can actually rewire the synapses in ours brain to make future complaining more likely. It can also shrink the brain’s hippocampus — an area that’s critical to problem solving and intelligent thought. And when we complain, our bodies releases the stress hormone cortisol which shift us into fight-or-flight mode, directing our bodies’ resources away from everything but the systems that are essential to immediate survival.
So, complaining strains us physically and leads to decreased happiness. What can we do about it? Of course, totally avoiding complaining is not an easy task for most of us. Like most self-improvement plans, it is hard to make big changes all at once. It takes practice and commitment, but I assure you that the end result will be worth the effort!
Let’s start small…Identify when you are most likely to engage in complaining. Is it coffee with a coworker, dinner with your spouse, cocktails with friends, (or maybe all three!)? Purposefully disengage from complaining during that time. Next pick one day of the week that will be completely complaint free. Once you have successfully managed one entire complaint-free day, add another, and eventually another. I think you see where I am going with this.
And please, let me know the changes you see as you conquer complaining.
This blog is one in a series discussing the importance of gratitude in our personal and professional lives, the benefits of routinely recognizing the good things in our lives, appreciating others who have helped us, practicing gratitude, saying thank you, and taking a gratitude walk.