So they sent me to a training class in advanced communications, specifically managing conflict through difficult conversations.
As it happens this trainer was better than most, and I found myself listening closely. You’ve heard of the book Critical Conversations and although the class was not specifically centered on that book, it was all about getting into and out of difficult discussions without ruining your relationships.
Sitting there I marveled at the trainer’s composure. She was calm, respectful but firm, and had a line for seemingly every persistent problem. For example, many of us (me included) find it difficult to say “No,” and so here is the alternative phrase: “Here’s what I can do.”
When you’re giving someone negative feedback about their performance, you’re supposed to state your intention: “I want you to be successful, and in that spirit there is something I feel I need to make you aware of.” (Then state the facts.)
In yeshiva I learned that you should never just take in information without challenging it. So I picked the rules apart, looking for situations where it did not apply. “How are we to do this in a federal government environment?” I asked. “What do you do when the other person has a hidden agenda?” “How are you to handle gender politics?”
The teacher tried as hard as she could to handle these difficult questions, and my fellow students gamely offered their insights as well. But eventually I think we all realized that in some situations, no matter how skilled you are, the level of problems is not only beyond your control, but crushing.
It occurred to me as well that even in a perfect world, I bring a lot of baggage to the table. I was on my own from a young age, I was trained that people should handle things by themselves as much as possible, and the idea of trusting other people to come through for the team remains somewhat foreign.
I guess the bottom line is, I grasped in that day of training how truly little we control. Sure, we can make the effort to choose the right career, to increase our skills, and to manage our emotional limitations. But at the end of the day, most of what matters is completely out of our hands. It’s been said a million times before and I still have trouble internalizing this, but at a certain point you just have to surrender that need for control.
Maybe you don’t have to believe in G-d per se, but I think it makes a lot of sense to simply let go once you’ve done everything you can. You have called out to the Universe. It’s up to the Universe to return the message.
Leave a Reply