Learning not to cry in today’s work place

One of the things I'm passionate about is encouraging women in technology. With that in mind, I'm going to talk about something that's never discussed in mixed company: crying at work. Or rather, trying desperately not to cry at work. I'll tell you how I try not to cry at work and I'll tell you how you can help someone who's trying not to cry: create space. Tell a joke, change the subject for a minute.

I cry easily. I cry when I'm frustrated, mad or hurt. I used to not worry about it until one day a roommate told me – after an argument – that when I cried he assumed I was sorry. I was so mad – I cried!

Trying not to cry has always been really hard for me. The tears come, you discretely try to wipe them off, you stare at the ceiling, you think about something else, … it wasn't until I got pregnant that I figured out how to get rid of them. Most of the time anyway.

I did once have the chance to ask a psychologist about trying not to cry. He said he could teach me through lots of role playing and different skills to just not cry. But he wouldn't want to – crying was healthy.

Crying changed when I got pregnant a couple of years ago. When I first got pregnant, if I started to cry, I couldn't stop. There's nothing worse than being in a sales meeting, arguing about whether book covers should be blue or green, and all of a sudden you're crying. And you can't stop. And everyone is looking at you. And they don't know you're pregnant, they just see you bawling about some stupid book covers. I went for a lot of walks there for a while. I think the janitor was really worried about me. Thankfully the next stage of pregnancy set in quickly. During that stage I felt like I was set apart from discussions – maybe it was the eight inches of stomach between me and them – but I just didn't really care. I mostly felt detached humor.

Feeling detached works well for not crying and I can still recreate that feeling (without getting pregnant) but it doesn't work well when you're passionate. And I'm passionate about a lot of the things I work on. I don't want to feel detached. Humor's ok, but not detachment.

So I've worked out two things that help me not cry. (Now consider that I think that the best thing would probably be just to cry and let people deal with it. I'm me. But if the other person is going to think I'm sorry, well, I guess for now I'll work on not crying. Next we'll work on teaching the world there's more reasons to cry than I'm sorry.)

The two things that help me not cry when I don't want to be crying are:

  1. It's not about me. I'm going to write a whole blog post about "It's not about me" but for I'll talk about it briefly here. When I get so frustrated that I'm about to cry – when I'm so upset that he doesn't understand why the covers have to be blue in order for us to be successful – I remember it's not about me. He's arguing that the covers need to be green because every company he's ever worked at, the covers have been green. And he told his kid all covers should be green. And he's never seen a blue cover – what kind of crazy people would make blue covers? And … you get the picture. (Substitute "proprietary software" and "open source" for green and blue …) So I'm not just fighting that he thinks these covers should be green – I'm fighting 20 years worth of green covers. It's not just about me and now.
  2. Space. If I can create just a little bit of space, I'm usually good to go. Humor is really good for this. Recently I went back to HP for a meeting and realized how much I miss the humor they inject into their meetings. There's a continuous undercurrent of good natured banter. I use that now whenever I need it. So just recently, a colleague questioned the value of my work. (Actually, I thought he questioned the value of my work. See number one, it's not all about me.) While he was trying to back peddle himself out of a hole I'd put him in, I felt those tears coming, so I clapped both hands to my chest and whispered "But it's me!" It wasn't very funny but one other person in the room laughed and I was able to chuckle, the tears were gone, and I could listen again.

In an ideal world, I think I would just cry when I felt like it. In today's world, if I start crying, I'm spending so much energy worrying what the other person is thinking and trying not to cry, that I'm no longer effectively listening or discussing. So in the interest of being able to work effectively in today's environment, I work hard not to cry.

I figured my story might help others or might encourage others to share their tips and tricks or experiences.

Related posts:

Photo by nyki_m.

How cops would use money and shame to stop crime

According to How Cops Really Want to Police, cops would use money and shame to stop crime. They’d dish out punishment on the spot. Most of their suggestions were either financial or shame.

On the financial side they’d do things like  give drug money to the neighbors or make a shoplifter work for the shop owner.

On the shame side, they’d make sure the whole neighborhood knew who was driving drunk or beating their wife.

Web Food for June

Bumper stickers reveal link to road rage : Nature News
People who had a larger number of personalized items on or in their car
were 16% more likely to engage in road rage, the researchers report in
the journal Applied Social Psychology1.

What Thomas Edison Can Teach You about Blogging

Most blogs are abandoned after a month or two…. the average time that it takes a blog to rise to the top of the pile is around 3 years (it’s now longer).

Lost in E-Mail, Tech Firms Face Self-Made Beast – NYTimes.com

“e-mail apnea,” coined by the writer Linda Stone, which refers to the
way that people, when struck by the volume of new messages in their
in-boxes, unconsciously hold their breath.

Lost in E-Mail, Tech Firms Face Self-Made Beast – NYTimes.com
typical information worker who sits at a computer all day turns to his
e-mail program more than 50 times and uses instant messaging 77 times,
according to one measure by RescueTime, a company that analyzes
computer habits.

Traveltalkonline: Sailing the BVIs Vs Grenadines
what its worth, I heard this perspective from a sailor with much more
experience than me – "sailing in BVI is cruising on training wheels."

Long vs. Short Articles as Content Strategy
A good editor should be able to cut 40 percent of the word count while removing only 30 percent of an article’s value.

How we read online. – By Michael Agger – Slate Magazine

Nielsen holds that on-screen reading is 25 percent slower than reading on paper.

Traveltalkonline: Long Bay Bch Resort vs Sebastian’s Seaside Villas?

For an extra $50 a night, Malcolm will leave the freezer door open with a fan in front. Just ask!!

Is Google Making Us Stupid?
myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would
get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d
spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely
the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two
or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for
something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain
back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has
become a struggle.

Bob Sutor: Open Blog | Why I stopped using Twitter
I think I made the wrong decision to post the tweets to my blog. They
should have been ephemeral, said and gone. Anything that warranted
posting to the blog should have had its own entry.

Findings – Futurist Ray Kurzweil Sees a Revolution Fueled by Information Technology – NYTimes.com
you depressed by the prospect of dying? Well, if you can hang on
another 15 years, your life expectancy will keep rising every year
faster than you’re aging.

Findings – Futurist Ray Kurzweil Sees a Revolution Fueled by Information Technology – NYTimes.com
about greenhouse gas emissions? Have faith. Solar power may look
terribly uneconomical at the moment, but with the exponential progress
being made in nanoengineering, Dr. Kurzweil calculates that it’ll be
cost-competitive with fossil fuels in just five years, and that within
20 years all our energy will come from clean sources.

Findings – Futurist Ray Kurzweil Sees a Revolution Fueled by Information Technology – NYTimes.com
you have trouble sticking to a diet? Have patience. Within 10 years,
Dr. Kurzweil explained, there will be a drug that lets you eat whatever
you want without gaining weight.

mikesimonsen: just noticed I spent more on Coffee (~$80) in May than I did on gasoline (~$60). Fuel’s fuel, right?

The other person’s point of view

There are two things I always keep in mind when trying to understand the other person’s point of view.

The first is something my sister said about 10 years ago. We had just passed a very overweight woman in spandex and I must have said something not nice, because my sister said,

Hey, she might have just lost 40 pounds. She might be feeling really good about her body and proud of herself.

I have never again criticized anyone exercising or in work out clothes. But the real point is, I didn’t know her story. I couldn’t "see" her story by looking at her or through a casual conversation. Maybe I would have been proud of her too, and encouraging, if I’d known her story.

The second quote I keep in mind when trying to understand the other point of view is (and I don’t remember where it came from):

If I were you, I’d do everything you are doing.

If I were you, and I had the same genes, the same experiences, the same friends, I’d be making the same decisions you are. So to change your mind or to influence you, I have to show you or teach you something different. I have to figure out what I know makes me make a different decision than you. And it might not be something I know. It might be the fact that I have two kids and you don’t. Or you have a bunch of credit card debt and I don’t. But the point is we all basically make decisions the same way – we just have different criteria we are using to make those decisions.

Maybe I can cash in on silly travel policies

I figured out how I can get free vacations. If friends buy me a ticket, they can check their bags for free!

to eight people traveling on the same reservation as someone with
premium status will be exempt from the first and second bag fees.

And hey, I can even get you extra leg room!

There are some parts about having "premium status" with United that I really appreciate, like shorter lines at check-in and security. But this whole baggage thing is a mess. Charge everyone or charge no one. Charge for all baggage, including carry-ons, or don’t charge for any.

I’m dreading my next flight … how much stuff do you think people are going to try to carry on if they have to pay $15 to check it?

Book Review: Get a Life, You don’t need a million to retire well

Get a Life: You Don’t Need a Million to Retire Well was a different type of retirement book. Not only was it not all about money but it was targeted at people in their 40s. The author, Ralph Warner, interviewed a lot of happy retired people and realized that it wasn’t money, it was health, friends and family and activities that kept them happy. So his advice? Make friends, stay close to family and develop lots of interests.

I found the chapter on friends interesting. He points out that most of us have no problem making friends when we’re younger but that we lose those skills as we grow older. We make lots of acquaintances but fewer friends. He says we need to keep working at that. He also recommends making sure you have friends of different ages (particularly younger was his point) and friends of your own. He warns that any friends you have as couples will probably drop out of the picture if anything happens to your spouse.

He had lots of good interviews with happy retired people and quite a few suggestions on how to acquire new hobbies, make friends, stay close to family, etc. He did have a chapter or two on money but that definitely wasn’t what the book was about.

Best way to conquer difficult conversations: just do it!

There are numerous books and courses that will teach you the best way to approach those difficult conversations whether it’s:

  • firing an employee,
  • asking for a raise,
  • asking for money that someone owes you,
  • telling a loved one that their behavior is hurting you,
  • and so on.

First off, if you are avoiding a conversation, consider how important it is. If Bob picking his teeth at lunch bothers you but you only have lunch once a month, then maybe you better work on your tolerance instead. If Shelly leaves her co-worker’s office crying every month, then maybe it’s worth getting up the nerve to talk to your co-worker. (And Shelly.)

The single best thing for getting better at those conversations is to have those conversations. The first few might not go so well. Don’t worry. Be sorry, apologize, take notes, learn. The next time you are avoiding a conversation, think about the past experiences, rehearse it in your head, practice with a friend, and then JUST DO IT. Avoiding a difficult conversation will not make the problem go away and the more practice get with them, the better you’ll get at them. (They never get easy. When they get easy, you’ve stopped caring. It’s time to get some help yourself.)

Oh, and have these conversation in person. If you are feeling chicken, and depending on the nature of the problem, you might resort to the phone (I’ve done that – especially when people owe me money) but never resort to email. Only use email as a follow-up to remind the person what’s been agreed to and to create a "paper trail" that you can refer to. Difficult conversations go much better in person where you can read body language. It’s not such a bad thing if the other person can see how hard it is for you too.

And always remember, it’s not easy for the other person either.

Now, if you have any advice on how to engage people that are avoiding you, I’ll take that.

Book Review: Raising Financially Fit Kids

I’ve been looking for a book that would explain how to teach kids about money – in ways appropriate to their age. I found it. Raising Financially Fit Kids is a great book for walking you through how to teach kids about money. The author breaks finances down into ten basic skills, and for each age group she provides a great chart that lists ways to teach your kid that skill at that age. It’s exactly what I was looking for. For example, my seven year old blows his money as soon as he gets it. How do I start explaining saving, budgeting, investing … how much can he or should he be able to understand at this point? The book explains that.

The author has a great idea around advisors. She suggests putting together a team of advisors that will help teach your kid and she has concrete suggestions and even a sample letter you can use to ask them to help and let them know what you are expecting.

If you have kids, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Raising Financially Fit Kids.