Thursday, October 27, 2005

When People Don't Return Calls

Let’s face it. People aren’t very good at returning calls these days. If you don’t have something they want right then, often times the calls take a back seat to the more pressing matters at hand.

In business, it seems to be less offensive than in one’s personal life. In business, if someone doesn’t return calls it is usually because the person isn’t quite ready to do business. Perhaps they haven’t made a decision or they are working on another project. Perhaps they don’t want or need your services and so they’re saving face by not returning the calls. Casual persistence is the best way to handle these people. And dropping a hand written note with valuable information is always a good tactic. Sometimes, by adding enough value you are able to charm the person into returning or taking your calls. A rule of thumb though is to NEVER, EVER make them feel guilty for not returning the calls. It’s best to pass it off and never mention it again. It’s past history!

In personal life, the “not returning calls (or emails) syndrome” takes on a whole new meaning. It’s personal, and it hits you more at a core level. It’s YOU they are rejecting, not your BUSINESS!!!

Lets say for instance that you’ve talked about getting together socially with someone for quite some time. Finally, you offer up a few days and expect to get the time set up and meet within a short amount of time. Yet, the email or call never comes back and you begin to wonder, “What did I do?” Potentially you mentally rehearse your last few conversations to see if there was something that could have been misconstrued. Then your mind starts playing tricks on you and sometimes leads you to believe that something you said wasn’t communicated correctly, or perhaps the person ran into someone else who told them that you were talking about them. Or, perhaps you were too scatterbrained when you last spoke and the person no longer wants to be friends. You are bound and determined to put forth a good face to them “next” time, even though your life is crumbling apart.

Ahhhhhhh!!! Now the obsession takes over and you can’t stop thinking about it and wondered what you did wrong?


Isn’t it funny what our thoughts can do to us? They can rip us to shreds quicker and faster than anyone else can imagine. They can pull us down and force us to spiral downward that leave us in a heap of mental dysfunction.

Okay, there are times that a friendship will be put on hold due to some of the choices we make. And there are cases that a friendship is over due to the differences in values that people have. But normally, it doesn’t happen like this. Normally, there is something else going on.

For instance:
The other person had a death in the family and is having to attend a funeral.
Their brother or sister, or both… ended up in the hospital.
Their kids are having problems at school.
Their kids are having projects at school.
They are having company in town for a week.
They are in the process of moving offices or homes.
They are looking for a job and it’s taking every second of their time.
They aren’t getting along with their spouse and don’t feel up to getting together with anyone.
They are having some financial issues and getting together for lunch or dinner is not in the budget.
Their child needs some sort of therapy or counseling and their mind is on that.
They are going out of town for the weekend and trying to get ready.
Their husband and son are taking a camping trip and they need to prepare the tent and camping equipment.
They are competing in some sort of sporting event and they are practicing extra.
They’ve started taking classes and are now studying for the class and upcoming tests.

Okay, you now get the picture! People are BUSY. Taking it personal that someone isn’t calling or emailing you back is probably natural, but not practical. We are living in a different day and time now and the old days of everyone returning calls immediately has now changed to, “I’ll call you back when I can.”

People are BUSY and we can’t and won’t all fit into each others’ lives at the same level that we’d like. Children and family takes priority over people with small kids, and work loads and other responsibilities come first before an active social life. Often now, the conversations have to be cut short and continued later. It’s nothing now for people to stop a conversation midstream only to promise a later get together. Interestingly enough, people seem to be fine with it.

I know that I’ve been unable to attend to a few personal meetings as of late. I’ve not been able to be up with my work load or return calls and emails promptly. I know that it can look bad to others at this point. I can talk a good game, but I can’t back it up right now. It’s just where I am at this point in my life.

I had to tell an old friend recently who commonly makes me feel guilty if I’m not checking in regularly that he shouldn’t expect any phone calls from me in the next year. I currently do not HAVE a social life and don’t intend to have one in the next few months or year at least. My plate is full. My child is my sole focus right now. If I’m not taking him to Occupational Therapy, then I’m taking him to the park or on a bike ride. If he’s at school and I have an extra hour, I’m going to be reading about things that will help him. I will NOT be nursing my social life. It’s just where I am right now and I requested that he just understand that I don’t have anyone outside of my immediate family as a focus right now. I wish things were different but they’re not. I was as nice as I could be, and I think it helped him understand that I can’t be an attentive friend right now.

On the flipside, I’ve also been on the other side where I’m obsessing about people not returning MY calls. I soon found out though that they were out of town or had another amazing excuse that I didn’t know at the time. So I’ve had to forgive others of these minor offenses just like I’m hoping others are forgiving me. I have found however, that if you drop a note to the person saying you can’t respond right then because of some personal issues, people are completely fine with that.

Returning calls and emails is the polite thing to do. My dad once told me to always be the last one to write or call and to never leave people hanging. It’s great advice and it’s advice I share with others. But I also have tolerance for others when they are slow to move as quickly as I am at that moment. My life responsibilities have interrupted my social life more than once and I’m sure it will again.

I just want to make sure that my SOCIAL life, doesn’t interrupt my DAILY life. That is where I am right now. My close friends will understand and the others will just have to wait. And meanwhile, I’m wishing you all love and blessings in your life!!! We’ll all be together again!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Teaching Children that being Different isn’t “Special”

How many times have you stared at a person who looked different? The person could be largely overweight, have some sort of physical deformity or be too tall or too short….. but whatever it was about them, they were different from you.

I have to admit, I used to stare at people different from me. That was until I spent time with someone very close to me that got stares all day long. I realized that this person dealt with more uncomfortable situations in a day than most of us deal with in a lifetime!

In our house, the word “fat” is a naughty word. So is “big”. So is anything that could be potentially uncomfortable for anyone else. With a 5 year old however, there is always going to be a situation like what happened a few years ago when we were in line at the grocery store. The pimply young cashier intrigued my son and Jeremy yelled out, “he has OUCHIES on his face”. Well, what can you do?

Today was an opportunity for a good lesson regarding special needs children. I took my son to the Doctor for a physical and being flu season there were several children there with physical and mental disabilities that are considered “high risk”. Right across from us was a man with his son in a very elaborate wheel chair. The chair secured the boy who probably couldn’t sit up on his own. The boy spoke very slowly and was severely mentally and physically challenged.

But his eyes lit up when I asked the daddy if I could introduce my son to him. Jeremy had been staring at him and told me he couldn’t talk so I asked the dad if we could meet him. The dad seemed happy too so I crossed the room to sit down right by him and asked the boy his name. He said “Tim” . I said, “hi Tim, this is Jeremy” . Then I asked, “How old are you Tim?” He said, “Ten”. While I talked with him I rubbed his leg gently and I could see he was trying to put his hand out for me to grab it. I asked Jeremy to tell Tim how old he was.

The conversation was short but sweet. The nurse then called them in and the dad looked at me and thanked me and we said goodbye.

On the way home, I was able to explain to Jeremy that Tim has feelings just like any kid who wants to fit in. He wants to have friends and experience life and love his family. He doesn’t want to be laughed at or pointed at just because he is different. And he doesn’t want to be “special”. He just wants to be “normal”.

I felt good about having the opportunity to introduce Jeremy to Tim. I want him to feel as comfortable talking with someone in a wheel chair as he would anyone that was able bodied. I want him to know that everyone, no matter WHO they are or what their circumstances, wants to be acknowledged and not ignored, talked with and not stared at, and they want people just to be comfortable and not intimidated.

I don’t know if it made an impression on Jeremy today, but I feel that it did. We’ll continue to speak with whoever comes along our path no matter how different they are from us.

Teaching our children not to stare is probably impossible. But teaching them to share a conversation with people who are different is truly remarkable!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Family Comes First

I started a new full time position as a headhunter a few weeks ago. I went through extensive training and got into the flow of working every day. And two days ago, my goal of being employed full time came to a screeching halt.

My son is having difficulties in school and is going to need a few days of occupational therapy every day. In a moment, nothing else mattered but my son.

I discussed the options with my husband that night. We discussed that there was no amount of money and no other person in the world that could hold a candle to our son. We heard from the counselor at school that our son needed some special attention and so I made the decision that night to resign my position effective immediately.

I went in the next day and my employer was incredibly understanding. He saw the whole thing develop and knew what a strain it was on my family. He told me I have an open opportunity to come back whenever I could. I have a feeling though that this new adventure into learning how to work with my son, is going to take up the next several years. Somehow, I feel a new chapter developing.

As I become more and more of an advocate for my son at his school, I’ll be learning new information about an issue I didn’t know existed until recently. It’s called Sensory Integration Dysfunction. Jeremy has difficulty processing transition from one activity to another and has other behavior issues that cause him stress. Each child has different symptoms but it is a deeply misunderstood issue and often causes problems in school.

So, I resigned from my position as a recruiter and am now connecting with doctors, the insurance companies, the school counselor and writing notes every day to my son’s teacher. It’s a full time job in itself.

Being an ambitious career woman has now taken a back seat to making sure that my son is getting the assistance he needs. I’m still the scrappy, creative, outgoing person who loves meeting new people and bringing in fresh energy wherever I go. I’ll still maintain my coaching clients and consult for individuals and companies when I can. But my major job will be educating myself and those involved with Jeremy on how to work with him with the least amount of frustration possible.

Family comes first. You always hear that, but it’s mostly when we’re tested that we are able to prove it. I will be proving it to myself every day for the rest of my life. I hope that I can learn to be successful in this role as I have been in others.

Only time will tell.

Jumping Back in the Work Force After a Break

You’d think that in our society there would be allowances for people who chose to take off some time for one reason or another. You’d think that when they were hunting for a job that people would understand some of the personal issues that people have to deal with which interrupts their career flow. Things like having a baby, staying home with children, dealing with a sick parent, taking time off after the sale of a house that provides a nest egg or divorce are a few that I’ve heard lately. Yet, the people who are trying to get their career back on track after taking a break, tell a different story.

One lady that I coached lately is dealing with a former family business for the past 20 years. She raised her kids and worked full time with her husband. Her whole life was wrapped up in her family business. Later, after her husband cruelty left her and spread rumors about her, she was unemployable. This was even after she’d updated class work within her industry. All of her former customers were still with her ex husband so even references were impossible to obtain. She felt completely at a loss of where to start.

Another client, who sold his biz and made millions during the process still has the desire to be employed. He took off some time and doesn’t have the need to make money, but he was much too young to sit around and watch the stock market every day. He wanted to get back in the market to start working again. He was best in a structured 9-5 environment and didn’t want to build another business from scratch. But speaking with potential employers was nearly impossible once they found out he wasn’t “hungry” to work anymore. They perceived he didn’t NEED the money so he wouldn’t work as hard.

I asked a friend recently who owns an extremely successful real estate firm if she’d consider selling her business. She practically shouted NO WAY, and asked “what would I do all day?” I have seen that happen time and time again to successful people too.. that they’re bored to death after the sale of their business. What do they do? They end up harassing the lecture agents to book them more speeches! They WANT to work!

So what can a person do if they find themselves in one of these positions? It doesn’t matter if they end up unemployed because “life happened” or because of a windfall of money. They are still “unemployable” to the hiring manager.

Here are a few things that these clients have done.
Take a job at a temp agency. Even though you’ve run a company before, go in and take the typing test and the computer test to evaluate where you are. This is a great place to get started. You can meet several temp agencies to get your name out there for a job. Once you get introduced to some new companies you’ll be more likely to gain self confidence, be dressing up for work and eventually get hired or meet someone who wants to work with you.
Get business cards printed! This can work miracles. While you’re looking for work, create a sideline business of consulting of some sort to get the pipeline of customers going. You can even work for free if you’re on unemployment and no one needs to know. But, it’ll get you in work mode and create opportunities for you.
Show up at public lectures. Anytime people gather to support an interest, there are going to be others just like you also attending. Strike up conversations with people around you and be sure to ask the speaker some intelligent questions. People are more attracted to individuals who “put themselves out there”.
Create a public workshop. Gather what you know, put it in workshop format and start TEACHING. There is NO better way, besides writing a book, to get noticed quickly. If you’re in a city that has opportunities for speakers such as The Learning Annex, that’s great. Otherwise, libraries and community college continuing education departments are a great place to get booked.
Network with friends. Print up business cards and tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job. You’d be surprised what you will find. If you mention it to someone, they’ll know someone who knows someone, etc. When you call and use someone’s name as a referral, it’s called a WARM LEAD and people are more than willing to help.

Lastly, keep your spirits up during the process by taking care of yourself. Meet with friends and family who are supportive as often as possible. Write in a journal. Work out a few times a week to get your blood flowing. Take a walk near the lake or ocean to bring a sense of tranquility. Read old letters and references about how great you’ve been in the past. And most of all, support other people who need help too. It’s the best way to know that you bring great value to the world.

Bringing value is what it is all about. Find a place where you can start bringing value and know that it can lead to something better or more suited to you. It doesn’t have to be the RIGHT job. But it can be the job for RIGHT now.