There are times in our lives when we are faced with dealing with someone or something that we don’t like. Sometimes that is a co-worker or manager, and this week, half of the country is faced with a president-elect that they can’t stand.
I fell asleep on the sofa Tuesday night around 11:00 and as I was fading off, it was clear that things were headed in a direction I wasn’t expecting nor wanted. When I awoke a few hours later with the TV still broadcasting the returns, it was just in time to see Donald Trump take the stage as our president-elect. Was I dreaming? This was something I never really believed would happen.
Trying to make sense of it all as he spoke, I kept thinking about the people in my life that I know are Trump supporters. These are individuals that I love and respect, including family members and friends. These are good people, not people filled with hate and they want many of the same things I do, despite the differences in our approach.
This knowledge gave me peace instead of angst. Sure, there were moments in the weeks preceding Election Day when I would grunt in disbelief at a sentiment expressed. I was bewildered that anyone couldn’t see the logic that was obvious to me and I was certain they would come to their senses. (And of course, they would have thought the same of me.) In the end, in those wee hours of Wednesday morning when the results were clear, it sunk in that others felt as strongly about their hopes and dreams as I did. It was time for me to focus on our common ground first as a way to move through our differences.
After spending the past several days processing the reality of our new leadership, I’m left feeling that the best thing we can do is focus on what we can control. America is made up of more than 300 million people. You are one of them and your words and actions define the culture of our country, just as it does in your workplace.
You can make a difference, for the quality of your own life and the lives of others, with your words and actions. For people on both sides of this divide, there are many things you can do, proactively and immediately, to help our communities, workplaces, and nation come together.
Some of the best lessons I learn about being a better person come from my shy and sweet dog, Grace. So I look to her now for the lessons that can help serve us personally and professionally. Here’s what I believe she would say:
- Live in the present. Stop rehashing the past. Don’t let your thoughts and conversation dwell in the issues of yesterday. We cannot change it, we can only do better moving forward. Put your energy there.
- Be kind and offer support to everyone. Dogs bring such joy with a simple exuberant wag of their tail. Their glee in greeting you at the door is authentic. Do all you can to bring that kind of enthusiasm when interacting with a fellow co-worker!
- Forgive someone when they do something you don’t like. Dogs are notorious for unconditional love. How many times do we ask them to do something contrary to their own beliefs? Grace would love to roll around in disgusting stuff in the woods and even though I know this is something important to her, I yell at her to stop. Yet she still comes running back to me with an open heart and forgiving demeanor. Do we do that? Heck, no! We get defensive and bark back. How good it would be to follow a dog’s lead here.
- Speak your mind with kindness and respect. Grace is quick to speak up — she whines and cajoles with the best of ’em, often loudly and with persistence, but she doesn’t hold a grudge when things don’t go her way. In the workplace (and life), have a conversation, not an argument. Don’t gloat nor scold. Work to understand another person’s view versus standing solid only to push your own. With that in mind, both parties can exchange ideas and differences on equal footing.
I do recognize that working alongside others that have strong differences of opinions from your own is never easy and almost always stressful. That’s why it is helpful to remember that seeing the world through the eyes of another doesn’t mean you lose your own ideals. Learning from each other strengthens us all.
Martin Luther King’s quote provides eloquent advice: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Your words and actions will bring light — or darkness — to the world. Which are your choosing?
As managers and co-workers, you make a difference in the lives of others. Be dogged in your efforts to be kind, forgiving, and earnest in your interactions with others. What would your dog do to make the world a better place?