I remember so vividly the fourth month of the school year, 1994. Pam my nine year old granddaughter, who used to be an above average student suddenly started getting grades that were well below her potential.
For several weeks her parents tried all the usual things that parents try – talking, persuading, urging, and even taking away privileges.
Nothing was working! Mother and Daddy and Pam were all feeling a measure of frustration with each other.
Pam, who truly loved the theatre and the ballet, was excited because she and “Nanna” (that’s my grandmother name) were going to the theatre – girl’s night out, as she was fond of calling our times together.
One of the things that went along with girl’s night out was that Pam would get to select the restaurant for that night’s dinner, after the dinner we went to the theatre.
As we talked and laughed and enjoyed our dinner, I asked Pam, “Are you happy with what is happening about your grades?” Her immediate and very pronounced response was, “No!” “Why do you think this is happening? What do you feel is the reason for your lower grades?” I asked.
In her true style, she just looked at me and smiled. After a few minutes of silence she mentioned a couple of things which she felt were happening. One of them was that one of the boys in the class always wanted to talk and interrupt her. The other was that she often became bored and lost interest.
“Pam, when people are in business and they are not happy with the results they are getting they must attempt to do something about the situation. They usually have to sit down and take a look at what is happening. They must determine what they want the outcome to be and formulate an action plan – what can they do to change or improve the situation.”
“You have said you don’t like the results you are getting. Here’s what I suggest – while I am out of town next week I want you to think about what is happening and what you feel you can do about it. Then, I want you to write down the things you could do to achieve those changes. That’s called writing your action plan. I also want you to remember that while your friend is the one talking to you and interrupting you, you are the person in charge of yourself. Your friend does not control what you do unless you give him that control.”
Pam’s only response was, “I can do it.” We dropped the subject and went about enjoying our time together.
On Thursday evening of the following week I called Pam from out of town and asked if she had her action plan put together. In her most grown-up voice and with all the confidence in the world, she replied, “Nan, I’ve got it; I’m doing it; and it’s working.”
And that was the last of the poor grades and incomplete work. Pam learned two very valuable lessons which many of us still have to work on – other people can’t control your actions unless you allow them to do so; and you are the person in charge of you.
As I have conducted customer service training sessions over the past twenty plus years, I have been aware of the fact that many adults are much like Pam – someone else is to blame for making them react the way they do. “They have no right to talk to me that way.” “I give them back what they give to me.”
Another observation has been that stress, anxiety, and conflict are very common in work environments, in homes, and in relationships.
Employees are saying things like, “You don’t know what it’s like around here.” “You’ve never met some of my customers.” “Trying to please my boss is driving me crazy.” Managers are saying, “My people aren’t happy; there’s a lot of stress around here.”
Parents are saying, “My kids are driving me crazy.” Spouses are saying, “You just don’t know what it’s like trying to deal with ....”
Any person who has ever worked in the area of customer service knows you deal with all sorts of people who have all sorts of feelings. It is not easy to deal with other people – especially if they are being difficult or they are angry or they are upset.
Pat A. Bishop, People & Solutions, Inc. - Learn more