Nov 17 2006
One of the enjoyable aspects of my job as a software consultant is mentoring and training.
I once worked with “Maggie” to complete an interface. She was leaving for another job and wanted to finish it before she left. Some of Maggie’s job responsibilities would be taken over by another woman, “Jane”.
Maggie was very easy to train; she already had some experience with the software and she was a quick learner. We got along fairly well and even had lunch together a few times. Maggie was Jane’s manager. I was slated to train Jane on the software after Maggie left.
Maggie wanted to be helpful by telling me a little bit about Jane’s background.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
Maggie had been mentoring Jane in the software in order to prepare her to take over. Maggie said that Jane did not have a programming background and I might have some difficulties training her.
Since I had been working with Maggie for a few weeks, and liked her, I naturally believed what she told me. In an effort to learn more about whom I would be working with, I asked Maggie more questions about Jane. Maggie attempted to be diplomatic but it was apparent that she did not like Jane.
Unfortunately, I fell a bit into “the enemy of my friend is my enemy” mentality and encouraged Maggie to gripe about Jane. Encouraging Maggie to badmouth Jane was my immature way of bonding with her.
Maggie leaves and I have to work with Jane. I wasn’t looking forward to it at all; I was expecting to work with someone prickly and defensive and difficult to train.
I then thought about what I was feeling. I didn’t even know Jane. I realized that I had allowed Maggie’s feelings to become my feelings and that I was expecting Jane to be awful.
I was going into my relationship with Jane with a set of negative expectations.
Have you ever had someone make assumptions about you that were false? Just think about how they might treat you if they believed you were a really slow learner. Or a liar. Or condescending…They would be looking for evidence of their assumptions and all your actions would be colored by their focus. You in turn might judge them negatively depending on how their assumptions affected their behavior of you. A possible vicious cycle.
I decided that instead of letting Maggie’s relationship with Jane become mine, I would form my own relationship with her.
I ended up liking Jane very much and while she wasn’t as easy to train as Maggie, this had more to do with her lack of programming experience than with her intelligence. I really enjoyed working with her and I felt a lot of satisfaction with seeing her learn and gain confidence with her abilities.
Meeting Jane “fresh” allowed me to interpret all of her actions in a positive light, which is my natural inclination. If I had allowed myself to see Jane through Maggie’s eyes, I may have interpreted Jane’s no-nonsense straightforward manner as defensive.
I want to like everyone I meet. It takes me a lot more energy to dislike people and I feel tired and drained. Liking people is much more energizing. If possible, I try to interpret their actions in a good light.
I don’t like everyone. But not liking someone is not disliking or hating them. I’ve hated people and it feels really bad. If I can’t like someone, I try to remain neutral and if I think they will really lower my energy, I avoid them.
I try to bring positive energy into meeting anyone for the first time. I believe that if you think the best of them, they will feel that positive energy and live up to your expectation.
I notice that in living my life this way, people usually prove me right.
So try to bring positive energy into all your interactions.
Who knows, someone may have a negative assumption about you and you will pleasantly surprise them!