A couple of days ago I walked in on a conversation where the participants were discussing how to deal with a particular person out in the field where I work. The had mentioned how she was very reactive and constantly operated in panic and crisis mode. As a result, she created more technical issues for herself due to her reactionary method of dealing with the issues she encountered. This was often a result of the whack-a-mole approach to problem solving, entailing the punching of random keys in hopes that the problem would retreat if and when she used the right key combination.
The discussion was that the fix did not involve a technical approach, but rather an educational approach, as the problem originated from the wildly flailing techniques of the end-user. In the conversation it was determined that correction of this problem was futile; as long as she operated in a state of panic, she was unreachable in any attempt to educate her on a better approach to dealing with the behavior of the machine and the software, much less herself.
As the conversation transpired, I had a vision in my head of all the lessons I’ve learned about handling dogs. When dogs get in an excited state they feed off high and intense energy. It is counter-productive to attempt to abate frantic behavior in a dog by yelling and screaming and being in a high energy state. The dogs respond more readily to calmness, yet firmness. In this discussion I could feel the tensions of the participants rise as they discussed the person in question, just as I could feel their tensions when a call came into us and the subject’s name showed up on the caller ID.
With this I realized that our initial approach to this person may actually be exacerbating her demeanor. If we are anxious in dealing with her, if we create an expectation for her behavior out of the gate, how can we expect her to reduce her own frantic state? I stated my own ideas on how to handle the person, and I might as well have stood with my fists on my hips. It was quickly dismissed as an unrealistic approach to the situation, as this person could not be expected to ever operate outside of crisis mode.
What was interesting was the ever so slightly perceptible disposition toward my position. Or perhaps it was my own interpretation of their demeanor. Nonetheless, I got the feeling that they felt they were being patronized, that my highly enlightened point of view was peering down on them through clouds of misguided idealism. It was as if I had said “My children… you are lost. Allow me to impart my wisdom so that you may deal most affectively with this person”. Realizing this I tried to drop back down to earth with a dismissive comment about my own position, but the jury had already passed the note to the bailiff. My high horse had become a Shetland pony and I was quickly becoming trampled under its hooves.
It is times such as these that the minister of myself seems to escape from my protective lair to wreak havoc on the population. I have become wary and suspicious of the public minister anymore. His motives always seem so pure, pristine, pious, and positive, but they end up leaving me with an unsettled and empty feeling. I believe it is because the minister has a very poignant message and is desperately seeking an audience. This desperation arises from having an absent congregation, from having a sermon at the ready that is quite apropos for its intended audience, yet the sole member of his church has declined to show up. As a result he preaches to those who don’t even belong to his church, who the sermon was not originally tailored for. The response of those mismatched parishioners causes the message to invariably boomerang right back to the intended recipient.
There I stood, realizing that between the lines I had been telling them they needed to change their expectation of how that person dealt with her issues. In doing so I failed to change my own expectations of how they dealt with theirs.