With a Little HELP from my Friends
Often I find that when pressures mount my first reaction is to defend myself. Take, for example, a recent conversation between me and Reid.
Reid: Peter, when you have a moment, I could really use some dev support to spec out a small plugin for one of our clients. It’ll only take an hour tops and would really help me a bunch.
Peter: I’ll get you some dev support as soon as our dev projects calm down in a couple of months. We’re working as hard as we can and you’re not the only one who has need you know? I mean I’ve barely slept in like 5 months and have started to BUY laundry and dishes instead of cleaning them because of these deadlines that we have to meet and oh my god you’re totally STRESSING ME OUT WITH YOUR INCESSANT DEMANDS! CAN’T YOU SEE THAT WE’RE DOING EVERYTHING WE CAN? AHHHHHHHHH!
Reid: Um… I’m sensing that this is not the best time to ask you about this. When can we talk about this again?
Peter: I’m sorry Reid, I don’t mean to be wigging out so much. I’m really not that stressed. But I don’t know when I’ll be able to help more. I appear to be double booked for every appointment i have over the next 6 weeks and I just can’t think about this right now. I know it might not seem like it but I’m working really hard and you should know that I’m working hard, can’t you see that I’m working hard? What more do you need from me? AHHHHHHHHH!
Obviously this slightly dramatized interaction could be improved. There are any number of ways to better address Reid’s request, but one stands out to me in particular: an open call for help (possibly paired with some anti-psychotics).
The Jedi Force
It’s a funny thing how people can transform when you invite them to join your side. It’s the basis of Jujitsu (not that i’m any sort of expert on martial arts). It’s a founding principal in any long lasting relationship. It’s a fundamental approach to any conflict. And above all, it’s my favorite tactic in addressing crowds of surfers.
In the conversation above, Reid makes a reasonable request. I hear it as a threat to my already limited resources and defend myself. Reid, with his supreme tact, sees through my defense and continues to approach from a helpful stand point. If I was talking to anyone else and acting that defensive they would probably also become intensely defensive and we would start a fight.
This could have all been avoided and have a favorable outcome if I simply responded with something like this:
Peter: Reid, I’m under a lot of pressure to meet a bunch of dev deadlines right now. For me to secure a resource for you I think I’m going to need some help.
At this point I’ve invited Reid to be on my side and work with me to find a solution. He’s on my team now so we’ll both work to find a mutually beneficial positive outcome
Realizing that this is a relatively silly example, I’d like to point out that this scenario can manifest in any number more significant situations. Shane and I recently defended our contractual expectations against one of our clients at the expense of an otherwise mutually supportive dynamic. As it turned out, all we really needed to do was to ask for help. In my personal life, Lindsey and I have to relearn this lesson again and again with each other.
Cheers In the Sea
When I go surfing I’ve come to adopt a strategy of cheering people on and openly offering waves to people sitting next to me. The effect is that I become a friend. When a wave comes my way, I don’t feel like I have to fight for it. People turn and flag me in and cheer me on in turn. My life is better when I can help people feel good and maintaining transparency.
Love without Arms
Lindsey and I have had our share of relationship challenges. From day 1 until now, 11 years later, we’ve overcome our biggest and smallest challenges alike by asking each other for help.
Recently I was growing frustrated by an increasing share of responsibility in our family. My calls for help were buried in aggressive and disparaging comments. At some point I got really upset and in the process set Lindsey’s defenses off. At that point we are fighting each other all the time. Life sucks when we’re always upset.
I wish it had occurred to me earlier. All I needed to do was to ask for help; to appeal to Lindsey’s compassionate side. The moment I let her know that all I needed was some help, she jumped onto my team and we launched into a coordinated effort to breath joy and passion into our lives.
Wanna be Right or Happy?
Maybe you can be both right AND happy. Try asking for help, spreading some cheer, or commenting in my blog post.