A couple of odd things happened recently that got me thinking.
Some weeks fly on by without incident, and then there’s others that leave you shaking your head.
Early last week I had an appointment scheduled for a Zoom call at 11.30 am with a prospective client. I turned up at 11.30 am, started the call and no one showed up. I waited 15 minutes for them to arrive, then gave up, sent an email apologising for us missing each other and suggesting another time to catch up.
Then, at 1.30 pm, I get an angry person emailing me that I had wasted their time by not attending their 1 pm meeting with me.
So I checked everything before responding.
Did I book it for 11.30 am? Yes.
Did I tell them it was for 11.30 am? Yes.
Did they agree to 11.30 am? Yes.
Did the invitation I sent state 11.30 am? Yes.
So what happened?
I replied, apologising for any mix-up, assuring that I had checked everything from my end and asking if perhaps their calendar was set to Eastern daylight saving time, as would be suggested by the time difference.
And then they went thermonuclear.
I was accused of being sexist, passive-aggressive, a time-waster, I “didn’t even read” their proposal… they threw the works at me.
At some point in exchanges like this, you must realise that there are times when it’s not you. It’s them.
And people are messy things.
We all have agendas, fears, triggers, prejudices and things that piss us off.
Something about me triggered something in them that meant that there was no room for negotiation or conversation. For some people being direct is read as being aggresive. And being clear is being “passive-aggressive.”
And in this case, I have absolutely no control over how this person receives my communication because I have no idea what lens they see the world through.
You never really know what agendas people really have.
People walk into our businesses with all kinds of agenda and baggage. And that’s important to recognise.
I’ve had people book in time with me to discuss social media strategy only to try then to sell me their social media strategy services.
I regularly get people sending me Canva documents for collaboration only to find that the document contains an AI-generated video of someone selling me their outsourced virtual assistance services in the Philippines.
And more recently, I have people selling SEO services booking time in my Calendly booking system.
It feels like everyone is on the hustle.
But that first situation I talked about is a completely different baggage. It jumps out of nowhere without warning.
And none of us can know in advance what agendas and triggers we will be navigating in any one situation.
Mentally preparing yourself for this kind of thing.
There was a time when I would fret over this incident for months. Or years.
As recent as three years ago, I let a potential client slip through the cracks during a busy period by forgetting about them.
We had started to work together. I had put her on a certain path of action, and she really took off with it. She was quite skilled and confident with what she was doing, so my focus shifted to other work that needed me to be more involved.
After about a month, I had forgotten about her altogether. And she didn’t reach out to re-engage, so I just left it there.
But I carried this guilt over the lack of contact and closure with me for three years.
Until we ran into each other last month and had the most pleasant conversation about where we were both at, what we were up to and how things were going since we had last worked together.
I had it in my mind that I had abandoned her. She only recalls how I had helped her accelerate by showing her a better way to get her work done.
In this case, I had carried a whole lot of guilty baggage into a situation that I thought would be awkward and full of angst. But it wasn’t. It was lovely.
But I prepared myself for the conversation as I knew we would likely cross paths.
I, first, prepared myself to apologise for simply abandoning her. I then prepared myself to be told how that had affected her work. And finally, I prepared to be chastised in some way for my actions. But laid across all three was the sense of responsibility for my actions and a desire to let it be known that I accept that responsibility.
So how can I be more mentally prepared for these kinds of incidents – both real or imagined?
It comes down to knowing who you are and owning your actions.
The last few years have been a journey towards knowing my worth, understanding the value I bring and working with that little voice in my head that constantly whispers, “Who do you think are?”
I have done the work of discovering my values, confirming that they weren’t just my aspirations and prompting myself before every meeting, speech or presentation to ensure that I was bringing them along with me.
I’ve read books, had deep conversations with people I admire and spent countless hours delivering value on the stage, in emails, in workshops, webinars, podcasts and coaching sessions.
I know very much who I am.
The good, the bad, the ugly, the insecurities and the triggers
I recognise when I’m being gaslighted by very broken people and can quickly assess when someone is using their trauma (and even sometimes blaming it) to try and bring trauma to me.
I’ve learned, like so many of us, to recognise the messy, beautiful, chaotic, wonderful and often unpredictable way in which humans walk about the world with all their traumas, biases, agendas and neuroses.
It’s why I’m confident in saying now that it was them, not me.
Except in those cases where it definitely was me. But these days, I’m self-aware enough to know when I am the problem.
Know who you are. Recognise all your parts. Be confident in that knowledge.
You could even bring that to your marketing in some way.
It certainly hasn’t hurt me.
P.S. Here’s a couple of ways I can lend a hand if you need some help.
Over 600 people have completed my ChatGPT mini-course that helps you get better results that read more like a human – and more like you. It’s absolutely free, and you can get started here.
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