You might think I'm pretty angry by the tone of this blog title. I'm not. It’s just a gentle reminder that we all need to reserve judgement on the lives of others before we know the complete story. And, if you never learn the whole story, make no assumptions at all.
You may be thinking, “Wow Courtney, where’s this coming from?” Well, let me tell you.
As a business owner, I’m a member of numerous business and networking organizations. All of which are designed to further the efforts of the collective businesses, and support one another on our journey as entrepreneurs. Many of us also have the title of parent as well.
This combination can often lead to challenges, reschedules, missed meetings, or late arrivals. We all know how that goes, even if you don’t own a business or have kids. We do what we can.
A few weeks back, I attended a business development session that I hadn’t attended in a while due to client commitments and scheduling. Another member approached me during the networking portion of the meeting and asked how I’d been as “she had not seen me in a while.”
While I did not have to explain my absence, I briefly outlined that business had picked up (which was a good thing), school had started (which is a life thing), and that schedules had shifted.
Her response, “Oh, well, I was starting to wonder if this was important to you.”
Ah, yeah, that was the sound of my head exploding if you heard a very loud noise!
I took a minute to absorb this comment as she carried on.
“You know, we have to make the effort if we want to be successful. You get out of this what you put into it.”
Just then, I had a flashback to a little sign my grandparents had in their TV room when I was a kid. It read, “Never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.”
At that moment, I felt judged. She had stepped on my moccasins with her stiletto shoes.
I have no idea if she is married, single, has kids or pets, all I know is that she had made an assumption that I wasn’t committed to my business because I didn’t attend every meeting, every time it was scheduled.
She didn’t know me.
She didn’t know my life.
She certainly had no place making an assumption like that. Don't judge my actions or commitment. I mean, my company's name has the word "committed" right there in it!
Now I was faced with a decision. If there was ever a social landmine, she had set off a whopper! But how should I respond? Did she even know she had offended me? And furthermore, I doubt she would have said that to a male attendee.
I decided to err on the side of professionalism, as I had concluded that the faux pas was likely unintentional. So, I tread lightly.
Knowing what I know of her, business is very important. She is driven and above all else wants to be successful, and that’s great for her. However, I wanted to gently let her know that while everyone has their own focus in life, their own goals, it’s important to respect the status and focus of others and take different situations into consideration. I didn't even play the "gender" card.
I took a deep breath.
“Well, my business, and my goals, are very important to me,” I began. “I put everything into it that I can and I see the results of my efforts. My main priority, however, is my family, and they will always come first. When my personal, familial obligations are in conflict with my business obligations, I can make adjustments, but ultimately, I decide what’s best for me, my family, and my business. However, it would appear that our priorities are different, and that’s okay, but my commitment should not be questioned.”
She was a bit taken aback.
As a follow up I added, “And for the future, it may be wise to know a person a bit better before questioning their commitment to their business. Not everyone is laser-focused on work. There are many sides to people.”
We stumbled through a bit more awkward conversation and exchanged curt goodbyes. I examined how that exchange left me feeling; mostly disapointed.
I’m pretty lucky you know? I get to run this business and I also have a family. I'm a business professional, and should be treated as one. I may grumble from time to time that I have a sick kid at home and miss an event or I have to pass up a call because I have to take care of a home repair, but those are first-world grievances at best.
There are single parents out there every day working hard to do their best in a job or run a business, all while managing a home and raising kids.
There are folks out there caring for a relative or loved one and trying to keep all the balls in the air.
I can’t fathom what it must be like to work against those odds every day and have someone judge my level of effort or commitment with no clue or care of the actual circumstances.
It must be infuriating! My disappointment pales in comparison.
So, as a general rule of thumb, I implore each of us to remember the following:
If you have opinions, keep them courteous and constructive please.
Always consider what you don’t know before making an assumption about someone.
Our lives do not look the same; that is how it was intended.
When we see the quote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” take it to heart.
The person that yawns in meetings might be up all night with a sickly child; not bored.
The person who is just a bit late every day may have to take the bus; it’s not that they don’t want to be on time.
The person that doesn’t join the lunch gatherings or happy hours isn’t antisocial; they may be painfully shy.
The battle may be large or small, but it’s not up to us to judge. It most certainly is not up to us to weigh-in when we have no framework or information to go by.
Approach every interaction you have with others with respect and sensitivity. You may never know just how much that may mean to someone; to not be questioned, to not be judged.
As for me, I’m not sure how it will go when I see my networking colleague in the future. But, I wish her the best in avoiding those social landmines, for her personal and professional sake.
Are you lacking support? Are you feeling unfairly judged? Working with Committed Change Health & Wellness LLC can lead you back to a place of confidence to move forward and claim your seat at the table. Be Better4U and Better4All!
You know what makes you special, worthy, and successful. No judgement needed!
Take care and be well,
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