Handling Adversity: 2020+ Beyond
“Tell me how you handled a difficult situation” is a typical job interview question. It’s also, although perhaps not in those exact words, the essence of conversations as we deepen our relationships with others. Whether it’s a new job or a stronger relationship, we gain something valuable when our response engenders trust and respect. That’s because the way we act in difficult times is a profound expression of who we are and who we aspire to be.
Communicating in 2020
When things started to turn ugly early in the year, I pondered this question frequently. I concluded that, if I lived long enough to be asked this question again, my answers would be worth sharing with a future employer, a friend, a mentor or mentee, my children and their children, in public, in a conversation, in a social media post, on a highway billboard or in a newspaper article. The answers wouldn’t be about political affiliation, religious belief, socio-economic background or any of the elements that make the human existence rich and diverse. The answers would reflect my integrity, an alignment of values and behavior.
The year is almost over and it has turned out to be so much more than “a difficult situation”. I had no idea that I would handle most of it virtually. Like many others, the preponderance of the virtual environment replaced most of my in-person interactions this year. The written word, sprinkled with a generous dose of emojis, became more important than eye contact and tone of voice. Interactions with friends, colleagues, acquaintances and complete strangers became indistinguishable at times, flooding my surroundings indiscriminately with politics, pandemic and pet pics alike.
Social media was a window into our minds. What I saw was sometimes inspiring, sometimes terribly appalling. Many times, I was deeply saddened to see people I once respected express themselves in offensive and hurtful ways. Would they have posted those comments had they been mindful that colleagues would perhaps read them? Do those words reflect their values? If so, do they engender trust and respect? Would I hire that person or choose to work for them if I knew that’s how they behave in difficult situations?
Making Tough Choices
Sometimes, even when our values and behaviors align and we act with integrity, we can cause anguish in others. What you do in difficult situations doesn’t mean you’ll act in a way that makes everyone happy. That rarely happens because difficult situations require us to weight options and make tough choices. Nevertheless, this offers yet another opportunity to handle a difficult situation. What do you do when you recognize that your choices have affected someone else negatively? That, too, can be a difficult situation, and an opportunity to practice humility, grace and grit. As you see, there is never a shortage of difficult situations, so there’s always an opportunity to recommit to acting with integrity.
Faced with difficult situations, we have a unique chance to build our legacy, how people remember us long after we’re not around. I desperately want the year to be over, but I have no control over that, nor will it guarantee a blissful new year. Instead, I choose to create something positive, meaningful and long-lasting from the difficult experiences we are going through right now, and I hope you will be inspired to do the same.
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