So, I know that in the past I’ve mentioned some of my co-workers and some of the problems I had forming relationships with them. It was really hard at first. The Yackass was my biggest problem. She was a walking bomb of drama and negativity with a very short fuse.. and I like to light things on fire. We did not get along. AT. ALL. One day, she upset me so much that I got up, walked to my boss’ office and told him, “Fix her attitude or I’ll go back to my desk and type up my two week notice.”
His bright idea was to get the two of us into a room together and attempt to ‘talk it out.’ I hardly had to say a word. She made herself look like a complete tool and instead of working it out she basically said, “I’m not talking to you, don’t talk to me.” OKAY! AWESOME! Like in grade school!!! We should have done this WEEKS ago! It was a tense six or so months after that and I felt bad for our two other team members because The Yackass went way out of her way to avoid me and make a mini-scene if we had to interact at all.
Then Ben’s dad and step-mom came to visit. They are Buddhist and quite possibly the most Zen people I’ve ever encountered in my life. Ever. And I live in the Silicon Valley! It’s always difficult for me to wrap my mind around the things they say because I’m always wound up so tight that if you drop a feather on my tightrope it might snap and exploded with the force of an atomic bomb. I was not ready to hear what they had to say and I got even more frustrated as Ben agreed with them and I was like, YOU PEOPLE don’t have to deal with this girl. It’s IMPOSSIBLE. You just DON’T KNOW.
Gary: Be nice to her.
Me: I WAS nice to her. I AM nice to her now even though she is snide and STUPID.
Gary: You are nice to her because in your mind you HAVE to be. There is a big difference. Be nice to her because you WANT to.
Me: I don’t want to be nice to her! I want her to quit and go away and never come back.
Okay, that last line was me being a whiny putz but I really believed it at the time.
This conversation led Gary into explaining that my best bet to get what I wanted out of The Yackass was to change MYSELF. I tried for almost an hour to make him understand that I HAD been nice to her and all that had done was lead her to believe it was OKAY to treat me the way she did. So I was DONE WITH NICE. I was at the point that I was just done with ALL OF IT. He said that since I couldn’t change her, and the only person I can really control is ME, that I should change. And I admit, I was being less than nice to her at the time. When I did have to deal with her I kept myself very guarded and if she tried to throw me attitude, I threw it back with the force of a heard or hungry elephants.
Gary: So how’s that working out for you?
Me: It’s not.
Gary: Do you think that will change?
Gary: Because you can’t change her.
Gary: But you can change you.
About a month later Ben brought the conversation back up in another context on the way to dinner. Even then I told him, YOU DON’T GET IT LEAVE ME ALONE.
Ben: No, YOU don’t get it. My dad gave you good advise. You should step outside this situation, step outside YOURSELF and really think about what he had to say. The concept, if you understand it, can be very powerful.
So I did. I thought about it a lot. And then I started on Lexapro and it was the first SSRI that really worked for me. So I thought about it some more with a clearer mind. And okay, I admitted that in THEORY, it could work. But I was still really bitter about how the whole thing had come to blow up before that meeting with my boss. I hadn’t let go of that yet and I knew even as I thought about it, that until I did that, I could not change me. LETTING GO would have the be the start of the change.
Then one day a few months ago we were really swamped at work. We had people in upper divisions coming down on us pretty hard because of a mistaken procedure change that we all said would be a bad idea but they pushed through anyway. I mean SWAMPED. And since I’m faster at what we do than any of the other three, my boss was really leaning on me to produce and I was completely stressed out as I watched our credits balloon from $5,000,000 to $8,000,000 in two months.
One day I had listened to The Yackass spend the better part of an afternoon on the phone fighting with her husband while I struggled to get ready for a meeting I thought was just a waste of time. And then Ben called. And he said something really funny and it made me laugh. He does this all the time. And when I hung up and heard her, something changed. Instead of being annoyed she wasn’t working, I felt bad that she had a husband that didn’t call JUST to make her laugh.
A few minutes later she came to my desk and asked me if I could do something for her and instead of thinking, “SURE!! I’ll do your work for you so you can sit over there and FUCK OFF!! ABSOLUTELY! Because I had nothing better to do!”
INSTEAD! I looked at her face and saw tired. Tired, beat down, emotionally wrecked and I felt bad. I felt… compassion. I replaced my usually snide “Okay, put it in my bin and I’ll get to it at some point today”, with “Yeah, I actually have a few of these I need to do already so it shouldn’t be a problem.” And instead of just dropping the papers in the bin and walking away, she HANDED them to me and… said “Thank you”.
And I was floored. And slightly confused. Then pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. The cynic in me is hard to turn off.
That single encounter started a kind of chain reaction. An upward spiral of ‘nice’. It didn’t happen over night, and I can’t actually look back and say when the change REALLY happened. Maybe at that point, maybe a day, a week, a month later… but it did. And now? She offers to help ME. And we can talk about the weather, and her bunny rabbit, and Cassidy’s uncanny ability to DRIVE ME MAD.
The other day the four of us had a meeting with my boss and, like he does at every other monthly meeting, he asked all of us in turn what’s new with us. It’s a little way that we can all connect and remember that we are HUMAN and have lives outside of work and to share new stuff we have going on. At the end he said, “So everybody is good! That’s good.” And Yackass said, “Actually everything with us is great. I think all of us are back on track and doing really well.” And she meant the two of us.
And I think what I really want to end this with is a very big ‘thank you’ to Gary. And an ‘I’m sorry’. I’m sorry for acting like a rubber wall when you were trying to offer me some very excellent advise. And Thank You for being so kind and persistent and willing to take as much time with me as you did to teach me one of the single biggest lessons I’ve ever been taught. Thank you for guiding me down a path that lead me to becoming a better person.