Looking at Things from Another Person’s View

**Today’s story comes from a dear friend and highlights the possibilities of seeing a situation differently.

Arriving at the golf course, my friend Becky spotted another golfer, Jessica, getting into her car to leave. Becky thought it was odd that for the second week in a row, this solid player had suddenly opted to forego the event despite signing up in advance. When Becky met up with her friends, they indicated that Jessica left after seeing who she was partnered with for the day.

There was a significant amount of discussion about Jessica’s behavior in between golf shots. “Why doesn’t she like the women she’s supposed to play with?” “Does she think she’s too good for us?” “Seems like an attitude problem.”  Everyone seemed to have a theory about what was really going on and the stories put Jessica in a pretty bad light.

Listening to the discussion, Becky was troubled. She and her cart partner briefly discussed other possibilities for Jessica’s actions. What if she had a physical injury or illness? Could she be getting to the course and realizing that she was not feeling up to playing? Maybe she was uncomfortable sharing that she had some “real” problem. Maybe she just didn’t want to play. What would be wrong with any of those things? (Allow)

As the round wore on, the other golfers debated about sending a group-wide email explaining the appropriate etiquette on golf day. While addressed to all, it would clearly be directed toward Jessica. The view was that this would solve the “problem.” Becky was wondering why people would want to “call out” someone who didn’t want to participate – making them wrong. She also wondered about the amount of time being spent on this matter. (Accept and Release)

This story raises a number of questions: How often do we assume that someone has a hurtful motive, and then find it is the furthest thing from the truth? What does it do to us and our relationships with others when we jump to believing the worst about people? How much energy do we expend judging someone’s actions when we could be savoring the weather, the activity and our friends? What other solutions could we find to be more compassionate to someone like Jessica?

*** Consider this quote:  “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.”     — Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD)

AAR at a Hockey Game

My husband and I go to the majority of the home games for the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team, and I would say we are big fans of the squad. Unfortunately, this past season, for all of its potential, ended with lots of losses and lots of available seats. By the end of the season, the fans of the visiting teams were there in large numbers to cheer their players on. In fact, at the last game we attended, the number of supporters for the opposing team seemed much larger than that for the locals.

As a result of this, there was a big change for us for the last two contests. Instead of sitting with a big bunch of Canes’ fans, we were seated next to supporters of the visiting players. I felt some apprehension about being “outnumbered.”

What was driving my nerves? I took a moment to consider my experience: I have seen many verbal altercations when fans got overzealous regarding their team versus another person’s favorite. Then there is the fighting that takes place on the ice. Additionally, I have seen people hauled off by police for altercations at a professional football game. So, I guess there is a reason for my concern.

Despite all this, I still had an opportunity to choose how to show up. I decided to see if I could not only avoid confrontation but maybe find some common ground with my neighbors.

During the first outing, the interaction was basically neutral. No real conversations, positive or negative took place. My goal was to keep my energies focused on cheering the good things the Hurricanes achieved and that worked.

On the second outing however, I was ultimately able to find something in common with the opposing team’s fans. Although we were cheering at opposite outcomes, we agreed that no one was satisfied with the referees’ calls. Once we settled on that, we had plenty to talk about and laugh over together. By the end of the game, while one of us was disappointed by the end result, we were able to part company with smiles.

You always get to choose how you show up. Here’s hoping you show up allowing.

Can Customer Service Ruin Your Day?

As you have seen in a previous post, a challenging customer service experience at the bank threw me for a loop. That’s not the case for a close family friend who shared this story.

Karen* was excited to be celebrating the upcoming birth of her eldest daughter’s first child at a shower that she and her younger daughter were throwing later that day. The soon-to-be grandmother was responsible for ordering and delivering the cakes. Based on others’ experiences with a new shop, Karen had ordered from an unfamiliar place and was looking forward to seeing what they had created.

When she arrived at the shop and shared what she was there for, the person at the counter went to find Karen’s pre-ordered cakes. The cakes were not in the usual spot. The employee then went to a secondary refrigerator – no cakes. The increasingly frazzled woman went back to the office to look for a clue as to where the order might be stored.

While the search was in progress, Karen very quickly surmised that, for whatever reason, the cakes had not been prepared, although she had ordered them for this date. She had a choice: She could get upset about the error or she could figure out a solution and get on with her day.

When the counter person returned from turning the office upside down, she had news. The order had been scheduled for the following Saturday. She was clearly braced for a strong reaction from her customer.

Instead of blasting her, Karen pointed out already-prepared cakes in the case. “Could I take these two?” When the clerk realized that Karen was not going to rip her apart about the error, she was able to brainstorm ways to get these cakes to look just as nice as the ones that were ordered originally. Karen walked away from the store with 2 cakes, decorations and peace of mind.

Karen had realized that by getting mad about the situation, not only would she potentially have put the store employee in an unhelpful frame of mind, but she would have also had to carry that anger around with her for some portion of the rest of the day. She might have had to travel to another shop to get her cakes, wasting time on a day that she really wanted to share with her daughters.

She was able to allow, accept and release.

A Fun AAR Outcome

Over the last year, it seems like my parents have received a large number of incorrect bills from companies. Chasing down fixes has resulted in lost time for my mom, who has many other things she would rather do. While she has had some moments of anger along the path, in general she has done a good job of staying neutral. Her second career (in customer service) allows her to remember that issues usually arise from the process, not the person on the phone.

This leads us to last week when my parents received an invoice that didn’t make sense. On first review, it appeared that there was a mistake, however it wasn’t clear. Because of my mom’s recently honed skills in resolving errors, she volunteered to handle the situation. Plus, she had the unique opportunity to go to the company’s local office to talk it through.

When she was in front of the manager, she made her intentions clear. “I am here only to understand. I am not looking for any credits – I just want to learn.” From there, the manager proceeded to walk her through the process, step by step, until she understood every component of the bill. The charge was, in fact, accurate. The manager conceded as well that the billing was confusing, even for his own employees. As she was leaving, my mother thanked him for taking time out of his day to go through this with her.

The manager then did something completely unexpected: He offered her a credit on her account. She asked, “Did you do that because I was nice?” The response was a firm “Yes.”

What if we were to follow this example and go into situations with no preconceived ideas and focused on understanding? Could we treat every customer service person with respect and kindness while resolving our issue? How about starting each conversation with the goal of maintaining or building a positive relationship? Before calling in, can we release the anger associated with mistakes or inaccuracies that lead to “wasted” time?

I can’t guarantee that you will get free money by trying a new approach. I can say confidently that you will feel better coming out of a constructive discussion than you will emerging from a fight. You might even make someone’s day by pointing out something you don’t understand. Food for thought for all of us.

Waiting in Line Without AAR

Okay, so I will admit that I have not always been good about waiting in lines – stores, banks, amusement park rides – not my favorite thing to do. My thoughts recently though have been about how standing in lines really gives you the chance to consider Allow Accept and Release. I can think of a number of stories around this, however I will give you one where I did NOT practice AAR, and what impacts that had.

In this story, I went to a nearby branch of a regional bank for a personal transaction. I stepped into the line at the teller counter, where I waited for a few people to complete what seemed like the most complex business deals known to man. I guess you might say I was annoyed fairly quickly.

When I reached the counter, one of the tellers asked me how she could help. It was obvious that she either currently or recently had a cold. That did not stop me from being “snippy” with her in that moment. I explained what I needed and was advised that this was not done at the teller window but rather had to be done by one of the bankers over in the offices. I said “really?” in a sarcastic tone and stomped off to wait for one of the bankers.

The banker came out within a couple of minutes and asked how she could help. I explained what I needed. I sat in her office (with an attitude) for probably 3 minutes while she completed the form as needed. At that point she sweetly sent me BACK TO THE TELLER COUNTER to complete the transaction. As you can imagine, now I was ticked.

When I arrived back to the same teller, she advised me of my options, I selected one and she completed the paperwork. I was on my way after spending a grand total of 15 minutes on a non-standard transaction. Not an outrageous amount of my time.

So, what did I get out of that? My pulse was up, my head was hurting, and within a few minutes of leaving the bank I was embarrassed about my behavior. I have actually not been back there because I felt like I was a big jerk to people who were just doing their jobs the way they were instructed.

What will I do next time? I will be intentional. Since I know that waiting is a hot button for me, I will remember AAR.
– Allow that the others in the bank have important transactions just like I do.
– Allow that the employees have many responsibilities to complete each day.
– Accept that I may arrive at the bank when others are there needing help from the employees.
– Release my need to be in a hurry.
– Release blaming myself when I get mad sometimes.

Next time, I’ll be ready

Movie Theater Provides AAR Opportunity

It’s hard to imagine that going to the movies could provide an opportunity to use the “allow accept and release” (AAR) concepts. However, that’s exactly what happened to my friend Joan* recently. She shared with me how she applied AAR while on an outing with her husband.

When Joan arrived at the cinema, she noticed other attendees, including a couple on a date. They were snuggling and enjoying being together in the dark. In the back was a group of children from toddlers to teenagers with no obvious adults in the group.

Once the film was rolling, everything went haywire. The dating couple started talking loudly. They took off their shoes and put their feet up on the seats. The children started to zoom around the theater, bumping into seats and laughing raucously.

My friend found herself starting to feel physically tense and angry, and completely distracted from the movie. She remembered our conversation about AAR and decided to try it.

– First, Joan allowed that each person has their own reason for being in this space at this time. What if the people here came to talk with each other, or run around? While it might not make sense to her to do these things now, was it hurting anything? By allowing, Joan stopped feeling that something was wrong, which changed her energy in the situation.

– She then accepted that this was the situation in this moment. By accepting the current reality, Joan could decide what she wanted to do now for her own experience. She had a number of choices: For example, she could report the behavior or make a scene or she could ignore it all. She opted for the latter.

– Once she made her decision, she released. By releasing, she let go of the past anger and stress. She focused on this moment – the film’s music, colors, and message – and the rest disappeared for her.

She was able to really enjoy the evening and was thrilled to not have gotten stuck in those feelings she initially experienced. This is a great starter application of AAR.

I will continue to share how this is working for me and others over time.

Introduction to Allow Accept Release (from 3/28/13)

Allow, accept, release.  This 3-word phrase asks us to look at any ideas, thoughts, situations, beliefs, etc. and see how they do (or do not) support happy, satisfying lives for us. 

The idea of “allow, accept, release” came to me recently when I was feeling highly stressed. The tension was impacting all areas of my life – health, relationships and job performance to name a few. Having experienced this before I knew had to change. I forced myself to stop and examine what was really going on.

As I recalled various stressful times it occurred to me that I was the common denominator in every one of those situations. That told me that I had to be heavily involved in creating my stress. I could not point at anyone else as the cause.

At first, I was disappointed. What an idiot I must be to create my own stress! But after several minutes of beating myself up, I started to recognize how powerful this could be. If I created stress, I could also NOT create it. As ever, I could choose.

So, I decided to start applying “allow, accept, release” to my life to see how it worked. This blog is a place to track how it’s going. I also hope to share ideas with others who might want to reduce their stress in a new way.

It seems sensible to start with how I have defined these 3 key terms:

Allow: Everyone is on their own journey. What’s wrong with letting them experience life as they see fit? How do we know what is the right answer for them? We can choose not to give feedback or require them to change what they are doing. We could let them do their thing and focus on our own improvements instead.

Accept: Sometimes things just happen. Imagine if we could say, “Well that was interesting” rather than assigning blame or finding deep meaning. To accept in this moment does not mean we have to become complacent about our situation in life. Rather it means that in order to get to where we want to go, we have to start from where we are.

Release: How long do you hold on to something that made you angry or frustrated? How about when someone pushes one of your “hot buttons” – do you stew? Are you still hung up on last year’s performance review or something insensitive your sister said six months ago? Consider how holding on to past injuries is serving you. How good would it feel to let it go?

Give this some thought and consider joining me. Back soon with more.