A few days ago I received a call from a former co-worker who wanted to check on me and “…just say hello.” After seven seconds of pleasantries, my former co-worker immediately jumped into a twenty-four minute tirade about how she was passed over for yet another promotion. (I was only aware of the minutes because it was after 2am, which is not the best time for me to actively engage in listening.)
After a while, she stopped sobbing and asked what I thought: Should she look for a new job? Should she talk to the Board of Directors? Should she file a complaint? Should she throw in the towel and move back to her hometown?
I was honest: I had a few ideas but at that time of the morning anything I had to say would’ve sounded strange (because by then it was 2:42am); but my first thought was for her to calm down so I exhaled and said, “o.k., let’s just breathe.”
She sort of laughed because that’s my favorite line, and she already knew I was going to say that; and yes I did sound… My second thought was to tell her to channel her inner Babe Ruth:
Every strike brings me closer to the next home run. –Babe Ruth
Of course I didn’t say that, but I reminded her of one little boy in our afterschool program who always cried during softball. He was the one who kept swinging the bat over and over and over again… his bat never connected with a ball because he never stopped swinging.
It was one turn at bat and about 20 continual swings.
She remembered him, but: What did that have to do with her having a serious life crisis and was I not listening!!!???? She didn’t say it like that because she’s way too polite, but she did say she was sorry for calling and waking me up and that I still sounded asleep.
Perhaps I was a little…asleep, but I reminded her of how, as the game continued, a few of us pulled him to the side and starting cheering for and giving him tips on the best way to stand, how to follow through, how to slow down on his swings and connect the bat with the ball. We became both fan club and coaches.
At some point, and on some level, we recognized this little boy had many gifts – including the ones we previously couldn’t see: He had a truly amazing smile when he wasn’t crying; he was determined not to lose his multi-swing approach to softball no matter how different it seemed; and he was committed to getting just one hit during the school year!
I reminded her that our chant became: Just keep swinging…
Eventually after several practice swings, we put him back in the game with the other children. When it was his turn at-bat again, after several attempts, and the fact that a staff member had to pitch for him in a rhythm that was in between his swings, eventually he hit the ball! And because we pretended to be dazed and made a lot of mistakes, he made his first home run!
So… I told her no I wasn’t falling back to sleep, yes I realized I sounded strange and out of touch, but the best advice I could give well after 3am Central Standard Time (CST) was:
- Breathe (don’t make any rash decisions; sleep on it first).
- Think about and build upon the strengths/qualities you already have and bring to the table.
- Ask for feedback/ways to improve from those who made the decision to promote someone else (be genuine; remain positive).
- Make adjustments where you can and create a plan for your next steps.
- But by all means: Just keep swinging!