Ok, so every once in a while, I really, really, really…really-really-really feel Joan’s column. In a generic sense, this very thing happened in my life last week.
Notice I didn’t say “happened to me.” I had an incident last week where I did rely on my professional instincts as a journalist. At first, it seemed quite the error, until I dug deeper and, low and behold, my instincts were correct.
At this point, I don’t have to be right, just accurate. Joan addresses this in a great way, reminding all of us who go through such things not to beat ourselves up.
Joan: Last week a friend called me to share the story of something that happened to her, which she described as ‘horrible’. She works in a profession in which sometimes her daily dealings require a delicate touch. It is usually an easy decision for her regarding which path to take, but every once in a while, the road crosses and there are two ways to go that make sense. On that day, she was presented with two possible choices, each valid, but each with ramifications. She weighed the options, understanding that either choice will anger someone, and made her decision.
She said that as she set forth the action, she had a sick feeling in her stomach, but she pushed those feelings aside, relied on what she believed was her best judgement, and stuck with her decision. She told me, “As soon as I hit send, I knew I was going to hear it.” But, she elected to stay on course, wait it out, and see what happened. Within hours, her fears came to fruition: she was contacted by a superior who strongly voiced his opinion about her decision.
Q. These types of situations are always hard, at best. At the moment, they seem disastrous. How did she handle it?
Joan: As she listened to his comments, she tried to understand his point of view and see all sides of the argument. She explained her position, stated the facts, and told him that she would take full responsibility for her actions. She said that she would handle any fallout that may result.
My friend is a highly intelligent professional who takes her job very seriously. Many people in her situation would have tried to make excuses or blame someone else, but not her.
In public, she remained confident, but privately, she doubted herself, wondering if she had strong decision making skills, or if she had what it took to stay in the job.
Q. This is the kind of thing that can eat alive someone who overthinks!
Joan: Well, by the time she called me, she was very upset because she had just spent the previous hours beating herself up. She questioned her decision-making ability. She questioned her judgement. She allowed her self-doubts to take over and belittle her capabilities. She let his words get into her head.
She explained the situation to me and asked what I thought.
Q. I know you must get these calls a lot. How did you help her?
Joan: My immediate reply was that I was proud of her for taking ownership of her actions and for doing what she believed was right, even if it may not be the popular choice.
I told her that I was proud of her for stating that she would stand behind her decision should there be an unwanted outcome.
I told her that we all are human and imperfect and that all we can do is try our best, using our best judgement.
I told her she did everything she could at the moment.
I told her to LET IT GO!
I know she heard what I said, but I’m not sure she listened. I knew she wasn’t going to let it go.
Q. Did she tell you the outcome?
Joan: Yes. The next day she called and said that her decision worked out and that everything would be fine.
Does this story sound familiar? Has there been a time when you allowed another person to cause you to question your abilities and cloud how you viewed yourself?
It doesn’t take much to go down the black hole of self-doubt. And there will always be situations in which we question a decision or our ability to make it. The important thing to remember is that as long as you use your best judgement and do what you believe to be the right thing with the right intention, that’s all anyone can ask of you.
Q. Still, mistakes can happen, no? How do you handle that, especially when your mistake can affect others?
Joan: Even in those times when you do everything you believe to be right, mistakes certainly are bound to happen. Whether you make a minor glitch or a major mess-up, do not beat yourself up or doubt your abilities. Stand strong and know that how you react matters much more than what you did.
As the saying goes: when you've done something wrong, admit it and be sorry. No one in history has ever choked to death from swallowing his pride.