One person’s frustration is another person’s…
I said I was going to write about multiple blog identities, and I will, I really will, but, it’s just that this other thing came up in the meantime. I was working on a project (actually a blog) for this organization, and, I got an email from a colleague who is unhappy because this organization’s blog does not come up first when she types the org’s name in “googlesearch”. It’s kind of strange to maintain a website for an organization, because each individual in it wants something different. Or doesn’t want anything at all from it: “Website? What is Website? What for we need Website?”
So, this person’s unhappiness with me manifested itself in an email saying she is extremely frustrated that when she “googles” the org, the first listing is a sort of anti-us blog post. My first impulse is to tell her to stop “goggling” us then! As I am somewhat nicer than a person who would actually say that, my second impulse is to explain how it takes time for site info. to “propagate” across the web, and how I’ve installed some Search Engine Optimization tools, etc.
My third, (and finally the one I’ve acted on) impulse is to not respond until I am clear with myself on why I’ve allowed her frustration to become my frustration. My “job” in that moment was not to ease her frustration, but to look at the situation objectively, see if there were any action steps I could or wanted to take now, and assess whether and how to respond to the colleague.
So many times we hear from someone “I’m frustrated” or “I’m mad” or “I’m not happy with your work” or “I don’t like what you’ve done and you need to change!” We tend to have a “fight or flight” response to this. First reaction might be “Oh, yeah?” or might be “I’m sorry, I’ll try to make it better.” When I allow myself to think about it, I realize neither one of those extremes is appropriate. The problem is not (emphatically, NOT) the other person’s frustration, or unhappiness, or dissatisfaction. The problem, if there is one, (I tend not to believe in the theory of problems, other than in a mathematical sense) is in how the actual situation or piece of work is working.
The truth (according to Muse) is that my colleague’s “frustration” is none of my business. It is an emotion she is experiencing. It could have been triggered by any number of things, and unless I’m a psychotherapist, and she is my client, it’s not my job to make her feel better. Now, if I do an honest assessment, and realize, as I did here, I wasn’t doing all I could, as well and as quickly as I could, to change the situation which (apparently) triggered her “frustration”, I may be able to offer a solution which, in turn, allows her frustration to dissipate.
The danger in any of these business relationships (again, the Truth as I See It) is in creating solutions with the GOAL of making people feel better, rather than, as in this case, making the website WORK better.
As I look back on a childhood dynamic which seems sort of hilarious to me now, although it plagued me then, I see how we can become caught up in wanting to help people to feel better. Worthy goal, you might think. The only issue with it is…it can’t be done!!! The only way for someone else to become happier (or less frustrated) is for them to examine within themselves what would be a next step towards that. We cannot change people’s feelings about themselves. We can hold up a mirror if we choose, but that’s about it.
So here’s the family dynamic. Picture me: Cute Teenager. I’m minding my own business, expressing my opinion, and doing whatever it is I do. My father comes to me and says “You know, your Mom is mad at you!” If this happened now, I would probably say something like “Really?! Well, I hope she feels better soon.” Back then though, my first thought is “I screwed up again. What can I do to make it right? OR Well, she can just be mad, ’cause I’m not changing anything!” Both of these are reactions. Both assume that I was somehow responsible for her “feelings”. I’m not; never was. The funny thing to me, looking back on this, is that she used my father for her henchman. She wouldn’t tell me she was mad at me herself, she’d complain to dad, and then HE would tell me. I gave up asking what he’d suggest I DO about that.
These sorts of dynamics translate to adult relationships. From there, it is my “job” to sort out what dynamics I wish to include in my beingness, and which no longer serve me. It’s a dicey game. Sure is exhilarating, though! 😉