Make Me Feel

Dear J-

I can’t even remember when — I suppose it was spring of 2010 — they sent me to Leadership Academy, six weeks of training on how to be a supervisor and the art of leading people. There are a lot of soft people skills that aren’t immediately apparent when you’re an engineer, and one of the most important ones I learned was the importance of “you make me feel ___.” If you get to that point you’re already lost (sort of like how if you’re worried about the third significant figure, you’re already in trouble — my favorite engineer’s joke). When you think about it the only person who can make you feel like anything is you: it’s trite, I know, but you determine your own attitude. How you react is up to you.

I’m reminded of this when I’m thinking about a conversation I had on Friday morning. It’s hard to hear that someone is perturbed by my actions and that I’m not doing it right. I know from various self-surveys and history that I am overly eager to please, that I can’t stand not having someone’s good opinion. It’s pathetic, I know, but that’s how I am. So it kills me to hear something like that, but then I realized I had a chance to make it better, for one, and also I choose my reaction. I could sit there and whinge miserably to myself or I could leave that to people with real problems and get the work done instead. The other thing I realized and appreciated is how hard it was to say those words to me: we could be stuck in an unending cycle of not-quite-good-enough and maybe-this-will-get-better-if-we-ignore-it but I appreciate the direct approach too instead. Less chance for inexplicable BS at any rate.

Calcifer will do something wrong and then run up to us saying “sorry, sorry” and we try to explain how if he didn’t do that in the first place, we wouldn’t have to be yelling. And in my head or out loud we have to remind each other to preface whatever we’re saying with “what are you, three years old?” Because he is. We should save the heavy yells and timeouts for the serious sins — hitting, pushing, fighting — and chalk the rest up to being nearly three and in between moving from toddler to kid, not quite ready to give up naps yet not falling asleep fast enough at bedtime. I need to remind myself that “you make me feel ___” is not an abstract concept for him, that we do make him feel ___, all the time, every time. When you’re three you’ve earned at least that much and more.




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