We worked on a project for a client, who remunerated us handsomely; ’we’ being three young freelancers and me. All was good the first month. Everyone, including the client, was happy.
Then, things went south.
My business venture ran into troubled waters and demanded all my time. I hoped the team would continue to work on the project in the same vein. But slowly, the dynamics changed. Deadlines were not adhered to, quality faltered, and it became difficult to get in touch with them. I was unhappy. But I stayed a passive observer, hoping they would pull their socks up. Big mistake.
A couple of months later, the client let us go. No second chances.
Not only did we lose the client, but a sizable chunk of revenue too. I felt miserable.
When I gently broke the news to the team, they were crushed. “Where did we go wrong?”, they mused. I was tempted to lay out a list immediately, but refrained.
Jock Stein was one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s heroes. One of Jock’s biggest advices to him was never to lose his temper on players right after a game. “Wait till Monday, when things have calmed down,” he would reiterate.
“Wait till Monday.”
Those words rang in my head as I spoke with my team. So, my response to “Where did we go wrong?” was, “We must introspect.”
Jock Stein was not the only believer in not losing one’s cool immediately. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is another follower of the rule. Ravichandran Ashwin, one of Indian cricket’s most prolific spin wizards, once said, “There are situations when you feel like, ‘Oh my God!’ we are expecting a reaction and [Dhoni] just leaves his reaction in his kit bag and goes back to the room.”
When things have just gone wrong, emotions run high. Nobody is in the mood for constructive problem solving. According to Dr. Thomas Gordon, people want the fact that they are angry or upset to be known.
This is a vulnerable time for everyone involved.
Ashwin believes that ‘when emotions are flaring high, you always make the wrong decision.’ You might try your best to remain constructive. But anger and other negative emotions find their way through fissures as thin as hair.
Think of cleaning. Would you rather clean while the dust is falling, or after the dust has settled?
Waiting for two days before you breach the topic doesn’t just let the other person reflect on what went wrong. It also calms emotions down and paves the way for constructive discussion. Not fueling the fire lets you avoid needless conflict.
But merely waiting is not enough. For a positive outcome, other steps must complement the wait. They are:
1. Focus on the Outcome
You have two choices: You can show the other party and how upset you are. Or you can ensure that everyone involved learns something from the event. Which choice do you prefer?
Focus on what you want to achieve from the discussion. Accordingly, rehearse the conversation in your head. This sets the tone for a positive outcome with long-lasting takeaways.
2. Give Time
When something goes wrong, most people are aware that they fell short. Unless they like to play victim. In such cases, any discussion is pointless.
Waiting till Monday gives people time to come up with their own answers. Thus, you empower others to learn by themselves. You develop independent thinkers who can develop unique perspectives.
3. Be Aware of Self
It takes two to tango.
It’s important to reflect on your actions as well: what you do well, what you could have done better, and what you could have avoided altogether. What did you learn from it? By losing the client, I learned the importance of staying alert and taking swift action, however uncomfortable it might be. Consistent conversation with positive mindsets are essential.
Also reflect on how you feel, and work on calming techniques. People who manage their emotions well, receive more favorable results. Managing your emotions builds resilience, which, according to research, helps people bounce back from a setback faster.
4. Find the Right Time
Timing is paramount.
Pick the opportune moment to speak to others. Beaching the subject when they are preoccupied with other thoughts is a bad idea. It doesn’t just dim your chances of success. It also makes you appear insensitive.
It’s essential to develop patience and understanding to choose the best time. That comes with experience and observation.
Like driving skills, most people overestimate their listening skills, a study showed.
A discussion is not just to impose your opinion. It should encourage others to share their challenges, and lessons they learned. This also makes everyone aware of their own challenges and potential areas of improvement.
Genuinely listen to others before you jump to conclusions. Use plenty of open-ended questions. Dig deep and uncover the core of the issue. Then work on a constructive action plan. Remember, a positive outcome is more important than you expressing (read unloading) your feelings.
6. Offer Another Chance
to implement what they learned, how will they grow? How will your child become a thinker? How will your spouse take initiative when you are busy? How will your team handle critical situations at work if you are not available?
You cannot be assured that things will be better this time around. But people are more aware. A few more attempts, and they will develop into empowered, intelligent and capable individuals. This is the long-term goal you should pursue.
We believe in striking when the iron is hot. But the iron is also most vulnerable when hot. A weld is strong enough to hold pieces together only after it cools down.
If your child scores less in a test, refrain from scolding her immediately. Don’t pounce on the first mistake your partner makes. Don’t be quick to vilify work colleagues when something doesn’t work, or mock friends who couldn’t keep up a promise.
Being patient when frustrated is tough. Very tough. But it’s also what will set you apart from others. It will make you a better leader, partner, parent, friend… it will make you a better human being.
You won’t taste instant success with the ‘Wait Till Monday’ mantra. In the early days, you will falter often. The key is to introspect. Just before going to bed, reflect on how you handled the situation, and what you could be better the next time. Be patient. Good judgment comes from experience. And experience comes from bad judgement.
The next time anger rises inside you like lava in a volcano, take a step back. Reflect on the six points mentioned in this post. Waiting a couple more days will go a long way in making your life better.