Three Ideas to Help My Friend

A friend recently asked for a couple book suggestions that might help her navigate her work life. She is struggling with the negativity she feels she encounters with her co-workers. She wants to maintain her relationships with her teammates, but feels herself becoming influenced in a way that does not feel healthy.

I should say up front that this friend does not work for the same organization I do, so stop trying to figure out who it is.

Most of my readers work in public education and the vast majority of us work on teams. So, it is a pretty common situation to be on a team with others who are not bringing the same vibe to the work as you are. Our inherent negativity biases make it easy to fall into patterns of pessimism. And even if personally we are trying to confront that bias, if those around us are feeding theirs then we are running a daily obstacle course that leaves us beaten down.

Then the real kicker is that we need our teams to be successful. Even if your work seems independent I challenge you to think how much better that work would be with the support of a team.

Hopefully by now, we realize that we can’t change other people. Even the label of “positive or negative” we place on each other is framed in our own minds.

We may not even be able to quickly change ourselves, but we can change our environments, build habits, and build our understanding of ourselves and examine our perceptions of those on our teams. Through those habitual, environmental, and empathic changes we may then notice our daily experience with our teammates has shifted in the direction we hope.

Here are three resources that come to mind:

  1. Awareness: Conversations with the Masters – I’ve pretty much been continuously reading this book over the last few years. It’s great to always have on hand and jump into any chapter. I enjoy it because Anthony de Mello helps me recognize my own role in the creation of my experience. Also that it is acceptable to speak your mind and with authority.
  2. 5-Minute Journal (Or some other morning gratitude practice) – My morning gratitude practice these days usually consists of walking my dog. But, it’s not just the walk. It’s the path we take that crosses a medical district. We routinely walk past folks being wheeled into a physical rehab on a gurney, others heading in for their morning dialysis treatment, or a family holding hands as they walk into a surgery center. We walk past where my first son – who is healthy and happy – was born. Finally we walk past Austin Cancer Center and I say a quick thank I have been so healthy post Thyroid Cancer – coming up on 10 years. Anything I have to deal with that day will be easier than what the people Maeve and I pass on our morning walk are experiencing. However you choose to give thanks in the morning, it sets you up to give others and ourselves grace throughout the day.
  3. The Daily Stoic – The Stoics remind us that we hold the discipline of perception within us. Situations and people are not good or bad, or positive or negative. Rather we decide how we will frame every interaction and our response. The famous Stoic emperor Marcus Aurelius tells us in his Meditations, “When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are unnatural.” The Daily Stoic is a short daily passage that helps us frame the day.

These were just some initial thoughts to share with my friend concerning a common struggle. Do you have other suggestions?

Share them in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Three Ideas to Help My Friend

  • I gratitude journal in the evening before bedtime. It puts me in a good state of mind to get a good night’s rest, and that goes far when dealing with daytime stressors. A quote from Samuel Johnson popped up in my email this week: “Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.” Focussing on the positives one can bring to the workplace, rather than the negatives others bring, can help you get through the day. Another friend reminded me recently of the practice of changing the phrase “I have to” to “I get to”, or “I choose to”–another way of focussing on the positive.

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