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Archive for July, 2010

It’s All about Me

For the past year I have been coaching a woman at one of New Hampshire’s many great nonprofits. I do it because I like Jane, because as the manager of a small organization she frequently feels alone and because I can learn as much from her as she from me.

A few months ago Jane sent me a message she had received from one of her board members. It was a response to an SOS she had sent requesting help at a couple of community events. While this particular board is more hands-on than most, one of the members took offence to the request as well as the tone of the message. Jane sent me her original email as well as Carol’s response which went something like this:

“You cannot possibly be this tone deaf or self absorbed. You owe the board an apology…”

Whoa, Bucko! Back up the train.
Carol’s response seemed harsh so I reread both messages and reflected for a minute or two. My conclusion? Jane’s request was a bit cavalier, rushed and yes, self-absorbed. Carol’s response was just as cavalier and certainly lacked tact. Jane’s email offered up a coaching moment which Carol didn’t take. Instead she stooped to name calling.

For my part I took the opportunity to coach Jane but not Carol. I may be making excuses but I care more about Jane, I like her better and there are only so many hours in a day. As we talked it through, I explained that while I did not find it over top or exceedingly self-absorbed, the message was indeed “all about her.” I saw two issues. First, she had asked for help without explaining that she needed a stand-in because she was double-booked. Second, she closed with a quick “gotta run” to her son’s soccer game.

In our discussion, I learned that the double-booking was not due to lack of planning or another soccer game but the organization’s commitment to project a statewide presence. Since it was all about her, Jane just assumed her board would understand her predicament. A few more words would have explained the issue and avoided the kerfuffle. Her closing remark may seem harmless and pleasant but it’s not relevant and provides too much information. Trying to excuse her hurried and somewhat sloppy communication on a family commitment hurt her credibility. She would have been better off to spend another minute on the message or wait until morning. Besides, her board doesn’t need to know how she spends her evenings.

For whatever reason, the incident has stuck with me. Reflecting on Jane’s gaff and Carol’s mini-tantrum, I came to the conclusion that we are all pretty self-absorbed. (Okay, maybe not Gandhi or Mother Teresa.) Stop and think about it. How often have you begun a conversation with “I need you to…” or “when can I get…”? On more than one occasion I’ve caught myself and followed that rushed request with, “Oh, sorry, hello. How are you?” But I’m sure I don’t always catch myself.

Or how about this one, have you ever begun a discussion in the middle of sentence or better yet in the middle or even at the end of a story? I know I have. If you are anything like me you have internal dialogues. I have them all the time and some, like this one, end up in print. When I have an idea, an issue or a question; my first thought is to tackle it, wrestle it to the ground, hog-tie it, formulate a conclusion and design a solution. I’m comfortable doing all that in my head. Of course I’m happy to present the final solution to you in a nice, neat package. I may even give you some, maybe all, of my reasoning. Unless it is a big or strategic issue or question, I probably don’t want a lot of input or a long discussion. Sometimes, but not always, I wouldn’t mind a few kudos or attagirls.

Why? Because it’s all about me, my agenda and my timeline. Like everyone else I’m overbooked, short on time and sometimes short tempered. I don’t have the time or inclination to revisit every problem. Especially if it’s solved! (Or at least solved to my satisfaction. Remember, it’s all about me.)

Hey, I’m happy to involve you, work the issue with you but I’m free at 4:00 today so that’s when I’m going to figure it out. I do some of my best thinking while walking around the lake and you are welcome to join me. If you’re not available or banged up you knee, well then, just back off because I’m on a roll.

What about you? When, if ever, is it all about you? I’d love to hear from you.

To subscribe to Susan Nye’s Other Blog just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive new postings.

Feel free to visit my food blog Susan Nye – Around the Table or photo blog Susan Nye 365. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010

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I love to read. I always have. I read every day. Every day. Sometimes I manage a few minutes while I grab a quick lunch. During more than one blizzard and rainstorm, I’ve happily indulged in an all day binge. I almost never leave the house without a book. I can’t imagine a day without a book. Alright maybe I can, but it makes my blood run cold.

I inherited my love of the written word from both my parents. When I was growing up, they read every evening after dinner. For years we traded paperbacks back and forth. When I was a teenager it was history and historical fiction. My Mom was my key trading partner. When I got older, we shared best sellers, legal thrillers and crime novels. My Dad is now my book trading partner. Reading is one more thing that Alzheimer’s, the thief, has stolen from my Mother.

Along with crossword puzzles. Mom was a crossword puzzle fanatic. She did the Boston Globe puzzle everyday and both the Globe and New York Times puzzle on Sunday. We put puzzle books in her stocking, as well as paperbacks, every Christmas.

Mom hasn’t given up books completely. She can still read but it’s hard to follow plot lines or enjoy a good yarn when your memory is fading fast. I have seen her read and re-read the newspaper two or three times in an afternoon. Each time she fusses or fumes over some crime or other, laughs at a cartoon and smiles at the “good news” news. But she doesn’t do the puzzle anymore. And her grasp of current affairs is gone.

On the plus side, she must be my biggest fan. She can read one of my stories once or one hundred times. Each time she sees it with fresh eyes and she never gets tired of my tales. Of course she is more than a little bit biased. On the other hand, she doesn’t mind or miss them when my Dad packs up the papers and magazines and carts them off to the recycling bin.

Alzheimer’s runs in families. My grandfather had it, now Mom. I can’t help but wonder how well I might cope in my Mother’s faltering shoes. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that I am not a particularly fearful person. I’ve leapt into new and different challenges and adventures with hardly a quiver, shiver or shake. I’ve reinvented myself at least three times, lived abroad, traveled around the world, built an organization from scratch, rebuilt two broken teams, bungee jumped, gone a mile deep into the earth and skied glaciers. And had a ball doing it all.

But there is a hell of a lot about Alzheimer’s that scares the bejesus out of me, a long and growing list. Loosing the joy of curling up with a good book is definately on that list.

Does Alzheimer’s run in your family? I’d like to hear from you. Let’s get a conversation going – just click on Comments below.

To subscribe to Susan Nye’s Other Blog just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive new postings.

Feel free to visit my food blog Susan Nye – Around the Table or photo blog Susan Nye 365. Browse around my website for more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope you will take a moment to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010

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