How are you?
Most of you probably were asked this a time or two this past week; how did you answer? Did you find yourself giving the classic responses of “living the dream” or “just another day”? If so, why? Did you feel like the person who was asking did not care how you were? Did you just not feel like explaining the struggles you were facing? Or is it just easier to give a generic response because you don’t know how you are? On this Sunday, I challenged myself to process how I was, and this post came from that thinking. I hope you enjoy it!
If I were to ask you what you thought your most significant strength was, what would you say? If I were asked, I would likely speak about my communication skills; specifically, I would talk about my abilities to communicate in challenging situations. I’ve always loved the mindset of being in the spotlight, the put up or shut up moments, and being able to perform in a crisis. This week, however, I was humbled.
Working in student affairs has been an experience that continues to throw me curveballs every single week. In student affairs, you must continuously find the middle ground in so many things. Enforcing your department’s rules, but still trying to always put students first. Being able to recognize the good moments, even though they always seem to be immediately followed up by a difficult one. Maybe what I have found most challenging, though, is making sure the many are safe while not losing focus on the individuals. When you want to be the person that “puts out the fire” during a crisis, it can be challenging to reach out for help. As I spoke about last week, it’s important to recognize when you are not the right person to put out said fire, and you must be comfortable passing the baton on. This week, I had to pass the baton.
Throughout my blog posts, I am consistently speaking about communication skills. Specifically, I talk about the concept of addressing feelings and emotions as they arise, so they do not bottle up and gain momentum in your mind. This idea is research-based, spoken about by experts way smarter than me, and has been practiced time and time again. It has been a mindset that I lean to in difficult conversations to help others address how they are feeling in times of struggle. So, as I entered a conversation with a resident experiencing an anxiety attack, I felt prepared to navigate them through talking points where they would address what was going on. This quickly showed not to be an effective strategy.
What did I do? Two years ago, I probably would have bulldozed through my talking points and continuously tried to help this student even though it was clear I was not prepared to put out this “fire.” Thankfully, I called for help. What happened next is something that I will not soon forget. Over the next hour, I got to sit back and watch someone who I did not know at all handle a situation that I was all but running from. I was amazed by every second of the conversation that passed. The conversation I observed was so effortless, which was reflected by how the student had begun to catch their breath, sit back up, and have a back and forth conversation.
I can’t express how important this moment was for me and how much I learned from observing two individuals talk back and forth. Most importantly, however, was how I reacted when I was asked, “how are you?” following the incident. I fell into the same trap I spoke about above. “Oh, I’m fine. I didn’t even do anything; I was just there.” But really, I did everything that I had been trying to get myself to do for a long time; to admit to myself that I can only do all that I can. “Even superman can only do all that he can,” as a wise woman once said. Instead of falling into a deep hole of doubting my abilities, questioning my strengths, and creating a bad day in my head, I was just thankful.
I wanted to share this story because I have a challenge for each of you for the following week. Every time someone asks you how you are doing, tell them. Be honest. If you are having a rough morning, speak about why it has been rough. If you are having a great week, share with them why it has been so great. I think this is important because you just never know when you will be surprised by the response you get. Maybe the person asking how you are is ready to tell you a joke that will brighten your day, but also maybe they need to see someone else having a good week to remind them that better times are ahead. This might seem like a simplistic task, so if you see it that way, I challenge you to count how many times you just give a simple answer like “living the dream” or “thriving and surviving.” I think you will be surprised by the end of the week.
I am thankful for these experiences this week because I think it opened my eyes to the progress I have made in both my personal and professional life. I would love to hear about some of your stories where you saw progress being made within yourself if you are comfortable sharing. Otherwise, I hope each of you have a great week, and thank you for letting me spend this Sunday with You.
-Colin Lane Croat