My friend Barbara sat down for dinner the other night and the first question fired across the table was “Now Barbara, what HAVE you been doing?” Barbara said she felt herself go red. She fired back, “Can we not start with me first. I’d like to hear what everybody else is doing.” Barbara wished she had her clever, very together “elevator speech” she used just that morning in a women’s networking group. But that night at dinner with friends, she wasn’t prepared to be “on”…..She had joined her friends for what she thought would be time to let go and forget about her uncertain future. She knew her sense of humor wanted to show up for dinner too, but it had walked out the door when her friend asked “what have you been doing?” such a simple, innocent question…..”Arghhhh!” she thought. Now that she was building a consulting business, and needed work desperately, she said she wished she could roll back the clock and have a better answer to her friend’s question. So we talked about this, and we developed a checklist of ways to stay in a happier zone when answering this simple question.
Here’s our list for keeping your cool, staying calm in a chaotic world and yes, maintaining a sense of humor.
- First step we decided is: “Chill out.” She decided to create a list of what makes her smile (Steven Colbert, her favorite quote, movie scene). Next time she’ll respond “What are you doing now?” with a serious response, but with a renewed sense of humor.
- She says she will practice answering the question with her professional response (in front of a mirror) and commits to editing it as circumstances evolve…(She might also may say it once or twice in a Paula Dean accent or imitate Barbara Walters just to crack herself up (only in front of mirror).
- She committed to actually LISTENING to the questions people ask her without jumping to conclusions or being defensive. She noted that this will also be hard for her….because she’s always been a know it all, which made her laugh….
- I recommended three websites: Yehuda Berg, Ladders, Little Pink newsletter. Anyone reading, please recommend others. Barbara said these are “ok” but she could use more help.
- Barbara is setting aside specific hours during the week to work on her long term business plan, and creating a spreadsheet with the list of people she will contact for business advice.
- We talked about Barbara’s investments. She is going to organize all of her information so she can check in with her money manager and accountant and help her husband manage their money. I suggested she check out the Women & Co website to help her determine what to organize a plan of action.
- I have a list of friends, the “real” down home friends, those who will listen to my rants, support me, and even critique me – warts and all. I suggested she might create a similar “entourage” and call one of these friends at least once a week, since most of her very good friends live in other cities. I also suggested she check out Leslie Grossman’s entourage advice for business leaders.
- We decided she needed a mini-vacation to help her relax. My friend cannot afford to go on vacation, so we decided she could look at “substitutes” until she’s saved enough money up for a road trip, etc. – She decided at least once a week to either bicycle, practice Tai Chi (great site for this) or splurge on a movie or a yoga class. We decided that walking the dog doesn’t count toward relaxation, especially since it’s really for the dog.
- She is looking into taking a class, one that will help develop her “softer side” – she’s always been a hard driving corporate maven, and quite frankly she realizes her outside interests are well, somewhat sparse. We brainstormed….cooking class, stand up comedy, photography, organic gardening, learning Chinese, enrolling her dog in a school to be a therapy dog or rescue dog. Hey, isn’t it about time the dog got a job ?….(although weak, humor continuing to creep back in to her life). Oh, she found this. Check it out.
- Last but not least, she is going to meditate. She is teetering on the unknown and is used to being very much in charge of her life, and her future. A new friend shared with her: “Sometimes you have to be knocked off the hill in order to climb the mountain.” – She loves that quote and is going to wear a band aid on her knee as a reminder (only not while wearing a skirt). Lame, yes, but it’s an inside joke… wink, wink.