In many ways my job, being “helpful,” has gotten slightly easier. That’s not because the problems themselves have become less difficult or complex. It’s that people can go much longer than ever just pushing through their stress, waiting until they’re totally saturated, before they finally (maybe) ask themselves how they got into the situation they’re in.
More and more, people are not listening to themselves. (It feels as if they’re afraid of what they’ll hear if they did.) So now, far more than before, my initial consultation with a client has a consistent trend: a client begins to describe the problem or the realization that caused them to decide they’d benefit from consulting with me, and, as they start to layout the situation, they’re thinking out loud and beginning to both identify causes and form ideas to address them – before I’ve asked a question or even said a word.
The article I’m linking to is from the Wall Street Journal, and it’s about how not to spoil your child. As you might suspect, the target audience is fairly well-off parents not wanting affluence to ruin their children. But the steps the author recommends begin with the very one that helps my clients get oriented: understand yourself. At least recognize your basic motivation.
It sounds obvious – and it is – if you make it a practice to hear yourself think. But if you’re always busy, always straight out, always doing, doing, problems occur when you become too busy to take on the things which get a foothold precisely because you’re too busy to notice information your own mind is generating.
If you’re a supervisor, your colleagues and employees notice. If you’re a parent, I guarantee you your children are two steps ahead of you. Children have an unerring instinct for what you’re really paying attention to, and whether you have the energy for dealing with them – or not.
More than ever, sadly, our best concentration and emotional energy is reserved for the workplace. Yes, that’s where the livelihood is earned. But it’s also true that’s where people share a common mission, cooperate, observe the ground rules, have pleasant conversations at the watercooler, give each other “welcome back” cards, stick to routines, etc. Work has become emotionally more safe.
I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve heard versions of this several times: “Work has become home. Home has become hell.”
How sad. It doesn’t have to be.