Kindness versus weakness: Does it have to be one or the other?
“Hello up there,” I shout, standing at the bottom of the proverbial hole that I swore to never step into again. “Hadn’t I learned this life lesson already?” With a heavy heart thumping in my chest, I conclude I still had work to do in order to move past this personal challenge.
I’m easy. Especially when it comes to being happy. When I wake up in the middle of the night with two cats sandwiched against my ribcage, even though it may only be four in the morning, my day is made. Beyond that, nothing really matters. I feel the same about watching lightning and laying in bed half-asleep listening to the rain. Walking around my yard at dawn to see what has sprouted over night. Just this morning I looked out my kitchen window to see our flag flying in honor of Memorial Day. A thrust of solemn pride raised goosebumps on my arms and was immediately chased by a flush of gratitude and excitement so intense, that it made me want to throw my neck back and spin in a circle and fall dizzy to the ground. Like I said, easy.
So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when someone recently told me I was bubbly. But it did. Not necessarily the upbeat part, but the fact that someone actually saw that in me. (I thought I was doing a pretty good job of keeping my giddiness under wraps.) Which leads back to the reason I think I’ve fallen in that all too familiar pit.
Let me explain.
It’s no secret my first young adult book Spirit Dance will be released in a month and when I decided to walk through the incredible journey of publishing this book myself, I knew that I would need help. For starters, I’ve never done anything like this before. Although I had learned to fly, ran a small business, and managed a massive remodel, I’ve never known anyone or have been involved personally in the publishing process. Without the benefit of experience, I needed an expert. Someone to help guide me through this uncharted airspace. Likely more than one. The research began and I hired a couple of consultants.
As you can imagine I was thrilled. Stoked, if I’m completely honest. When I met with my team I ran at the mouth. Talked fast and animated, hands flitting, the passion for my project pouring out of me like a monsoon rain. I opened my heart and shared my vision for the book series. The entire dream. Why wouldn’t I? These were my peeps and I wanted them to feel comfortable, in-the-know, and part of the team. Certain they would be as excited as I was. After all, that’s why I hired them.
Looking back, I think this was my first step into the pit of not-yet-mastered life lessons. While running the remodel project, I learned a ton. How to be professional, direct, clear, highly-organized and to be certain to negotiate all requirements and expectations up front. I made sure not to ask workers to do things or be in an environment that I wasn’t willing to take part in myself. Skills that, for some reason, I completely set aside when working with my new consultants. (aka. subcontractors.)
“This was a completely different animal,” I told myself. Since from the outside swinging hammers, managing workers, setting deadlines, organizing project details and billing didn’t seem to translate into the book business. “New area of interest, new process.” Or so I thought at the time. In my mind, I was a publishing beginner. A novice, starting from scratch. (Feel free to send a head slap my way at anytime.)
Why? Because I didn’t consider myself an expert in this specific arena. I had no experience in e-publishing and was clueless how to connect, never mind market with social media. But I missed a very important point. One that should of transferred over from the remodel. I wasn’t an expert in the book world, but after managing a crew of 18 for two years, I was a shrewd business person and an expert in process.
On the job site, I wasn’t anyone’s friend. Yes, I knew their names. Made sure the site was safe, kept them hydrated in the summer heat, and provided the materials the subs needed to complete their jobs. But beyond that, no bubbly excitement. No sharing of the dreams I had for the house when the construction was complete. Just business. Honest, straightforward, and I ruthlessly held each trade to their commitments. So why, in this new business arrangement, had I retreated back into my demure, kind, hostess disposition?
Truth is, I was trying to be nice. I wanted my team to like me, so they would be invested in my project. The fact was, though, I was already paying them to do the very thing I sought. It’s no wonder that they thought I was easy. In this case, easy to run over.
I have high standards. It’s a fact. But as I proved to myself during the remodel, I’m willing to do anything I ask of others and also willing to pay them well to train me in areas I’m not proficient or haven’t yet experienced. With that being said, I needed to resurrect my construction know how. Curb my bubbly excitement and reserve it for my inner circle of friends. Stop worrying if been held accountable is making someone uncomfortable. Even if they referred to me as demanding, perfectionist, high maintenance, or bitch. After all, they agreed to my expectations and goals when we met.
It takes strength and balance to be kind and professional while holding other people’s feet to the fire. Particularly after realizing they aren’t doing what they promised. But then I remembered that when someone walks away from me, we both win. They no longer have to do something they don’t want or can’t do and I get the opportunity to go out and find someone who does.
A win win.
E.L.Chappel author of Spirit Dance/Storm Chasers/Risk
Wide-eyed looking for familiar holes to walk around.
If you take my kindness for weakness, you’ll be gravely disappointed.
aka The Glamorous Wife
I am glad to find this thought/concept put into words…and so clearly. I find myself trying to be friends in circumstances that require a professional tone be in place at all times. I think it is my people pleasing nature to want approval and to be liked. I know I do my best work when I am fair, clear about my intentions or expectations, and I articulate consequences if expectations are not met. I am also a very transparent person, which draws people to me (I think I appear easy to trust and seem to be a ‘man of the people), that in turn allows me to encourage deeper conversation with others. It is the balance that is often missing. The balance between transparency/vulnerability, and a professional demeanor that insists on expectations being met. Thanks for sharing your thought on this. I think you last sentence says it all; “If you take my kindness for weakness, you’ll be gravely disappointed.”
Thanks for you’re insight and thoughtful words Mary.