You Never Know

Photo of stressed out business woman sitting at her laptop

Have you ever been meeting, collaborating, or chatting with someone who seemed a little “off” from their norm? If you work with the same people regularly you know what I mean. Sometimes you can just tell when they aren’t “themselves” in some way. Maybe they’re more irritable. Maybe they’re quicker to argue, or get offended. Or maybe it’s worse and they act or speak in a way that’s damaging to a relationship. I’ve definitely experienced this here and there over the years.

As I was driving today I was reminded that we all have “off” days. And really, you never know what someone is going through at a given moment. Particularly in the workplace where people often do their best to put on a professional face and get work done.

If I just think about people I personally know, I can say all of these things have been true at some point in the last few months:

  • I’ve collaborated with someone who lost a close family member earlier in their life than anyone expected
  • I’ve had meetings with someone who doesn’t know if their marriage will last through tomorrow
  • I’ve spent time with someone who’s experienced some intense bigotry and hate up close and personal
  • I’ve worked with someone who is going through the hardest financial struggle of their life
  • The list goes on

It’s easy to pretend we can compartmentalize our lives and just “focus on one thing” when stuff around us gets really hard. Whether that focus is work, community service, helping others, etc. But in reality, we can’t truly ignore some of that hard stuff we’re going through. If that’s true for me, it’s true for those I work with.

So I’m writing this as a reminder to me, Erik. A reminder that maybe my client who was really snappy with me is just dealing with some crappy stuff right now and they don’t realize how they’re acting or treating me. It might be that they’re scared of getting fired tomorrow. Or their pet just passed away. Or their child is really sick. Or maybe they just slept like crap. I shouldn’t be quick to become frustrated in those scenarios. I never know what else they might have on their mind.

Have you ever experienced something like this? I’d love to hear what you think.

Opening Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

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