Why Is It They Always Want A Smile?


I’ve been in rehearsals since September for a production of The Little Mermaid. We now have three of our six performances completed, and this coming weekend right here in Lindsay, Ontario we will end the run. It’s been very fun – a lot of work mind; but a lot of fun to bring our various characters to the stage. I’m playing Grimsby who is Prince Eric’s guardian.

One of the constant notes we as a collective cast get is to smile when on stage. This I entirely understand. After all, the audience has paid for an evening’s entertainment, and when they look up and see 40 smiling faces beaming out at them, well… they can’t help but smile as well. And when you’re smiling, you’re having a good time enjoying not only the performance, but the whole experience. The thing is that smiling comes more naturally to some than others.

Not surprisingly, employer’s also want their staff wearing a smile as they go about their work; almost certainly if your job involves dealing with your customers, clients or the public on the front line. However, I’ve come to observe the same issue happens at work locations that happens in the world of musical theatre; there are those who wear it naturally and those who have to work hard at it.

If you’re one of those who have to work at having a smile, you’ve probably heard over and over to smile. In fact, you’re probably pretty sick and tired of having people your whole life tell you to turn that frown upside down, or how it wouldn’t hurt you to smile more often. Many of the people who don’t smile naturally are actually feeling quite good. They might even be happy in fact; it just doesn’t communicate to others that they are.

Smiles generally communicate warmth, happiness, enjoyment and friendliness. Unfortunately the absence of a smile can communicate discontent, stress, unhappiness; even come across as not wanting to be approached.

When we interact with others, we do so both verbally and non-verbally through our actions and our facial expressions play a huge part in this silent communication. Now take someone who is in fact overstressed, sullen, disinterested in their work or a tad annoyed even. That face their making can unfortunately be mirrored by some people who are not in fact feeling any of those things – they just don’t naturally smile. The message however, can be identical to the public who receives that smile.

So therein lies both the reason the employer wants a smiling staff and the reason they tend to be put off by those who don’t. They figure to themselves, if this person isn’t smiling here in the job interview, they certainly aren’t going to smile when on the floor dealing with the public. And to be honest, it’s not only on the floor in front of the customer that a smile is wanted. Even in a factory setting for example, far removed from the customers’ gaze, a smile can make a team of co-workers spend their time together more pleasantly. The lack of a smile can make interacting with your co-workers strained for some, and just unpleasant for others.

Years ago I believe somewhere I learned it takes 17 muscles to smile and 43 to frown. The message was, “So why work so hard?” Thinking back to musicals, there’s also a great song in Annie called, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” Great advice that.

But I really feel for the people for whom this smile is something that takes a great deal of effort. And of course if your teeth aren’t in great shape you might actually wish you could smile more often but your low self-confidence in your smile might prevent you from flashing it more often. Fixing that smile might take a lot of money and may not be something you can afford to invest in. If that’s the case, I get that. By the way, if you’re on Social Assistance, you might want to inquire into dental care. If you have benefits where you work, checking with your provider might also be worth your time to find out what work you could have done. Self-confident people do smile when their teeth aren’t a concern.

However, if you understand and agree that a smile sends a positive message but yours still doesn’t come naturally, may I suggest that you consciously work at remembering to use it once or twice in any lengthy interaction. That brief smile might just have a bigger impact because it’s going to get noticed when you do use it.

Smiles attract smiles in others too. Look around today as you meet and interact with others. Do an experiment if you’d like and flash your smile at people. If you count the number of people who instinctively smile in return in response to your own, you’ll be surprised at how many you’ll get. It adds up. A smile is free to give and can lift someone’s spirits too. You never know when you give your smile to someone who is feeling down, just how much that simple gesture might mean. A smile can signal you’ve acknowledged they even exist.

We’re about to head into a season where many go about with a, “Merry Christmas” or a “Happy Holidays” in their everyday speech. Add a smile and you’ll fit right in!

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Lost Trust In Others?


Many people I meet with trust issues, at one time were extremely trusting in others, however someone took their trust and abused it. Others shared their secrets, failed to respect their confidential and shared information; eventually hurting the person in such a profound way that they’ve never really fully trusted again. So here they are, not only distrusting others, but no longer trusting in their own ability to assess whom to trust.

Being taken advantage of, now the person doubts their judgement in trusting anyone, which lowers their self-esteem – and all in acts of self-protection. Consequently, they never fully trust those around them, doubt themselves and miss out on a lot of good things in life.

Wow! That’s some pretty significant negative consequences, all stemming from being a trustworthy person in the first place (a great personal quality). Can you imagine how a person must feel who goes through this world, never trusting anyone completely; always expecting they’ll be let down and taken advantage of again? Believing the best way to safeguard your personal thoughts, deepest feelings and the things you struggle with is to keep them all to yourself. Is that healthy? Not really.

No, keeping everything to yourself and never trusting others for fear of being exposed and taken advantage of can severely limit great experiences, rich relationships and it’s these that can work wonders on your own self-image. I’m not saying we should all be sharing absolutely everything with all the people around us. No, personal, private thoughts, feelings and problems are often kept exactly that way – internalized and private. Sometimes we can work through our issues entirely within ourselves.

However, there are many times in our lives when an empathetic or even sympathetic ear could be helpful. Someone to hear us out, a kind of sounding board for the things we’re thinking about, struggling to deal with, being weighed down by. When we share the big things with someone, our burden is often lighter, even when they just listen. Of course if we want advice, possible options for dealing with whatever is weighing on us, a trusted opinion from someone who has our best interests at heart can be wonderful.

This kind of person usually isn’t found in the workplace but rather in our personal lives. It’s a close friend perhaps, someone you confide in who takes what you say, doesn’t get alarmed and tell you what to think or what not to think, but simply hears you out and shares what’s important to you just by being there. Workmates we trust in typically hear us talk about working conditions, things specifically related to our jobs like the boss, co-worker relationships, workloads and job satisfaction. Sometimes we might even confide in someone about our plans to look elsewhere for a job without letting the boss know.

If you’ve ever told a co-worker something in confidence and found they’ve gone and made your secrets known to others, you would likely lower your trust in that person, or perhaps rule them out completely with anything significant in the future.

Sometimes of course, the person who breaks your trust does so with your own best interests at heart. They might be conflicted if for example you shared something that would cause financial loss to the employer, or if you were in danger of hurting yourself or another person. Their moral dilemma between keeping your trust versus the safety of others or employer loyalty might cause them great distress.

Some are just naturally better at earning, keeping and returning trust than others. It’s a skill after all; not something we are equally good at. When someone breaks trust, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are inherently bad, or will break trust in the future, but it makes it hard to extend trust a second time.

Now, the sad thing about people who have had their trust misplaced in the past, is that they exist in the present wary of trusting now. Without someone to confide in, they are left to work out their problems and issues all on their own. When trustworthy people do come into contact with the person, the person may miss opportunities that could help them move forward with less stress and much quicker. That fear of perhaps misjudging someone again and having their trust misplaced is greater than the perceived benefit of trusting, so they don’t.

I suppose the greater the fallout from misplaced trust in the past, the more a person withholds their trust in the present; insisting to themselves that they get to know someone over a long time and gauge how they handle small bits of information before ever contemplating sharing deeper issues. Having one’s trust broken is like having an internal scar that only you can see and it can run deep, flaring up when you’re thinking of trusting again – just as a reminder.

When someone does trust you with their feelings and struggles, it’s a wonderful gift. It’s a measure of the value they place in you; both for hearing them out and for what you’ll do with what you hear. You show respect for what you hear and more importantly for the person themselves when you hold that trust firm.

Trusting in others is a good quality to have. My hope is that if you’ve lost the ability to trust, you eventually rediscover the tremendous benefits of confiding in someone, and that your trust in them is rewarded.

Bitterness; It’s Expensive To Carry


If a link to this article landed in your Inbox, or if it’s been printed and left anonymously on your desk, it could be that someone working close to you is taking the rather bold step of drawing your bitterness to your attention. Don’t get angry, don’t throw this immediately in the trash or click close on your browser. You can do either of those things in a few minutes. Could be they are trying to do you a favour without having to face you openly.

Bitterness is something that everyone feels once in a while. Call it extreme disappointment; maybe feeling robbed of some person or some thing we had counted on to be there for us. Perhaps you lost a loved one or you were passed over in the end for a promotion or a new job that had been yours for the taking or even promised you.

The thing is, extreme disappointment or bitterness isn’t supposed to last. It’s supposed to have an expiry period. Oh sure you will always recall the disappointment or even the heartache of whatever you feel was denied you. However, carrying that disappointment and allowing it to fester and grow, carrying it around with you like a badge of honour, is highly unattractive. It’s so unattractive in fact that not only does it show yourself in a negative light, it can be denying you many good things in life; opportunities you may or may not even know are being passed by as you get passed over.

You have to ask yourself, ‘What does carrying around my bitterness and making sure everyone I meet gets a taste of it do for me?’ Imagine if you will a straight line; on the extreme left you’ve got Joy, Elation, Excitement etc. Way over on the extreme right you’ve got Bitterness, Anger, Loathing. Somewhere in the middle  there’s a midpoint of the two. What appears to have happened in your case is that some event or a series of events, has moved you way over to the extreme right and you never recovered your center; you’re grounded somewhere it’s unnatural to be, but it’s become your every day experience; and unfortunately it’s become what others who interact with you see as your dominant trait. No one was ever meant to stay in that extreme end position; unfortunately it seems you have.

If you’ve ever heard someone say things like, “Hey lighten up”, “What’s your problem?”, “It wouldn’t kill you to smile you know” etc., these are others ways of trying to get you to move on that scale. No one expects you to do a complete 180 and be joyous, excited and elated all the time. No, that would be unnatural for your disposition. At the same time, where you are permanently is where people were only meant to be periodically, and it’s not natural.

So maybe you’re not a people-person; or maybe it’s not that so much as you’d rather do things solo more often than you do at the moment. Could be the role you have in your work life isn’t a natural fit; that the job requires interpersonal skills and a general attitude that differs significantly from your own. If this is the case, one obvious sign is that when you’re away from work – say in your personal life and at home, you’re a changed person. Yes, if you feel your face gets set in a concrete grimace and lines of stress, furrowed eyebrows and a scowl start appearing on your commute to the workplace, this could be the reason.

However, if this bitterness persists beyond the workplace and is your reality both at work and every other place you go, it’s not just work that’s the problem. In such a case, you may find yourself more isolated from people in general no matter what the circumstances. I suppose you have to ask yourself, “Am I happy – really happy – with things the way they are.” If you think the world has to give you some reasons to feel less bitter before you make any conscious effort to drop the bitterness, it’s likely not going to work out that way. It always starts with you.

Look, whomever brought this to your attention is likely concerned about you and FOR you. Sure they’d rather interact with a happier you, but in truth, they probably are more focused on helping you become what they know could be a better you for your own sake.

Bitterness grows if you feed it. So you might have the experience, education and skills to deserve a promotion. However, your bitterness which comes across as brooding and biting is extremely concerning to those making the hiring decision. They aren’t going to promote you and give you added responsibility when this position you want is one of influence. No, it’s costing you dearly, and so as you get passed over again and again, your bitterness grows and gets reinforced.

Some need professional help to face where the bitterness stems from and help learning how to leave it behind. Not all, but some. You’ll also get massive support from anyone you talk to and ask for their help as you attempt to change what has become so ingrained in how you go about things.

It’s your life of course to live as you choose. Just don’t underestimate the cost of holding on to the bitterness.

 

Thinking Of A Return To School?


So the job search has become a long, frustrating experience of being rejected over and over. You’re over-qualified for some jobs, told you’re not who they are looking for others, and then there’s the ones where they say you were great but they decided to go with someone else. In the end, it’s all the same – no job. So now you’re so frustrated with the entire job search process, you’re thinking of going back to school instead.

A return to school would give you current academic credentials; a big upgrade on your mid-1980’s degree or diploma. Surely some current education and your life experience would be a winning combination! Well the short answer is yes. However, it’s important to consider a number of factors when you’re weighing the option of upgrading your education.

First of all, are you going back to upgrade your education in the field you’ve worked in all along or are you venturing into another field altogether? If it’s something new to you, think now – before you pay any tuition, if and how what you’ve done in the past can in any way be leveraged to help strengthen your job interviews after you graduate. So if you graduate with a Police Foundations Degree, how will your 15 years of Engineering work help? Will you be able to draw on transferable skills or will you have a different kind of answer when they ask why you’re taking this U-turn after looking at your work history?

There’s nothing wrong with changing direction in your life. It is a wise and courageous person indeed who isn’t afraid to stop pursuing work they can no longer do or be hired to do, and venture out in some new occupation. It can be invigorating and liberating to learn a new profession and it can fuel you with energy and enthusiasm if you’ve felt stuck in a rut. Pity the poor person who has come to no longer find joy in their line of work but who pursues it because it’s all they know and they feel they can’t risk going back to school and taking on more debt.

Ah yes debt. That’s one way to look at things of course; going back to school and graduating with a degree, diploma or certificate that costs you tens of thousands of dollars. You might be reasoning that while your out of a job now, at least you don’t have the added burden of all that debt on top.

There’s another way of looking at the money part however, and I always encourage people to see any costs associated with returning to school as an investment. An investment in what though? The answer is yourself. And what can you invest in that is of greater importance and benefit than yourself? Whatever you learn in school, you’ll take with you for the rest of your life. Oh sure you won’t recall some specifics, but you’ll emerge changed and better educated. School changes how you view things, and if you’re like many, you’ll use what you learn in school daily. It’s not so much that you apply a formula to a problem, remember some passage in a book or quote some theory. It’s more about how you think with a broader perspective and interact with the world in a different way when you graduate.

Now if you’re going back to learn a trade, I applaud you. People who have experience and recent education in the trades are not only in short supply, you’ll pick up skills you can use not only in your professional life, but your personal one as well perhaps. When you don’t have to call an electrician or auto mechanic for minor repairs, you’ll save money and feel empowered too.

School isn’t for everyone granted. What is? This doesn’t mean however that because you heard from a friend that it didn’t work for them that it won’t work for you. It can be a welcomed change to a frustrating job search to be connected with other people in a classroom who are interested in what is being taught just like you. You’re also likely to find that it isn’t as bad as you first imagined either. You wake up and you’ve got somewhere to be, at a certain time, and it’s motivating you to get into a good routine. You’re likely to apply your earlier work and life experience in the classroom too, and your marks might just be higher than you ever thought possible.

When you do finish school, you’ll emerge with something new and something current to stick on that résumé of yours. You’ll feel confidence like you haven’t in some time too because your education was rather dated prior to school. Now if you did your homework before you even started by asking some questions, you picked a course of education that has an upswing in employment. There are jobs out there and you’ll feel optimistic about your chances.

Oh and should you be deciding to upgrade your current education in your field, how can that do anything but help you? Now you’ve got extensive experience and learning of best practices, latest trends and you’ve got credentials once more.  Remember, education is never a bad thing, and the investment you choose to make in yourself will stay with you, unlike a purchase you make in a car that loses its value the second you drive off the lot.

Teamwork As A Valued Trait


Looking at job postings these days, teamwork is one qualification that shows up fairly consistently; the ability to work cooperatively and productively with others. It’s a highly valued commodity; an essential quality that employer’s want more and more in the people they bring in from the outside to join their existing workforces.

It’s more though than simply getting along with others. When you work as a member of a team, you’ve got to understand and act differently than you would if you were working independently. A member of a team comes to rely on others and at the same time be relied upon by them to complete assigned work. Good teams trust each person to show up when scheduled, pull their own weight and go about their work in such a way that fits the other employees. When you’re the new hire, you’re being assessed by the employer and your new co-workers to see how you’ll fit in with the existing workforce; everyone is hoping you’ll contribute in such a way that doesn’t disrupt the way things are. This is true unless of course you’re part of an overhaul of how things have been done and the company wants to shift the culture from the way things have been to something different.

Long ago, many job applicants had similar skills and backgrounds. When an employer advertised an opening, they found that the people applying shared common work histories; people didn’t tend to move around much, and people were interchangeable without much need for teams to adapt to new people. These days, things have changed. Because it’s easier to move around the globe, often employees are showing up not just from different parts of the community, they’re coming from different countries altogether; sometimes from different continents, speaking different languages and having different ways of doing similar work. People aren’t as interchangeable as they once were, and now need much more orientation to local methods, specific procedures and company practices.

You find too that friction is inevitable for some when bringing in new people. Whereas in the past the new hire had to assimilate themselves into the culture of the teams they joined, now you find that many existing workers have to gain an awareness and sensitivity to the needs of the person hired as well. This is a good thing, but it requires effort on the part of the existing team in a way that long ago wasn’t such a priority. Employers too have learned to be culturally sensitive to the needs of their individual workforce members. They go out of their way now to train people on how to work better together – and by better, they ultimately mean be more productive.

Many workers are now cross-trained; they learn not just how to do the job they were initially hired for, but they also learn how to do the job of others. When a person is cross-trained, they become more adaptable, can work in two or three different roles if need be, they become more valuable to the employer. For the person, they are increasing their own skills and doing everything they can to stay hired.

Communication skills are essential when working together. It’s more than just being able to talk and write clearly though. It’s all the non-verbal interaction that’s going on too. Even when working side-by-side with someone, it’s anticipating what they’ll do next, knowing when they’ll need to interact with you and knowing when you’ll be interacting with the next person on your team. Doing your work and being counted on by your teammates to be reliable and dependable goes a long way to fitting in.

The thing about a team environment is that each member should understand and buy in to the same end goals. These can be quotas and targets to hit on a daily basis for example, or they can be how a product is delivered to the customers or end-users. Many teams take a lot of pride in what they do, and if someone – a new hire in this case, threatens that mood or feeling, it will need to be addressed.

Sometimes an organization will actually hire more employees than they plan on keeping. What they are doing in fact is having an internal competition to see who among the new employees will fit with the existing chemistry the best. Or said another way, they are determining who is the most disruptive, performing more independently than gelling with others, and who then to let go.

In a job interview, it’s not enough to say you’re a team player. Too many other people are making the same claims. What is absolutely critical is to give clear examples from your past or current work experiences where you’ve thrived working cooperatively with others and been highly productive. When you show or prove you’ve worked effectively as a valued team member, you make it easier for the interviewers to envision you performing similarly for them. This is where many applicants fail miserably; they make statements with nothing to back up their claims.

Teamwork is about recognizing the strengths of each person and putting everyone in a position to contribute towards the common end goal. If you don’t know what your teams purpose is, this is something you should immediately ask. And while you don’t need to be best friends with your team, show some interest in them.

Living With Extreme Anxiety?


There’s a difference between feeling anxious and nervous every so often and feeling chronic and severe anxiety all the time. If that’s hard to imagine, it’s like comparing having a bad headache with a migraine; two related but completely different experiences. Those who suffer from migraines wouldn’t wish them on others, and those with chronic and acute anxiety suffer so intensely, they too wouldn’t wish what they experience on those they know.

If you’re fortunate enough not to live with ongoing, acute anxiety, it might be challenging to understand and really empathize with those that do. Situations that seem innocent and safe to you can be paralyzing for the anxiety sufferer to deal with. In the most extreme cases, anxiety can be so intense that a person might live avoiding interactions with others; and I mean all. Things you might take as straight-forward and simple such as withdrawing money from a bank, doing grocery shopping or taking a bus might be incredibly difficult to think about and impossible to actually do.

Now many of us who don’t live with acute anxiety still find some situations stressful. It might be a job interview, attending a family gathering, getting married, the first day on a new job, having to stand up and make a presentation to a large group of people. Perhaps if we recall how we feel in these circumstances we might get a small glimpse into what others experience. The thing is we’d have to magnify the intensity of how we are feeling in those situations and then imagine living like that all the time, day in and day out 24/7. That’s where we probably would admit it’s impossible for us to truly understand this condition.

Through my work as an Employment Counsellor/Coach, I help people as they look for employment. I go about this in part by asking questions and listening to people share their past experiences and finding out what their problems and barriers are. By learning all I can about someone, I can better assist them in finding not just a job, but the best possible fit; looking at much more than their skills alone. I’d like to help them find the right career or job that is a good fit for their personality, their psyche if you will, so it means taking into consideration things like the workplace environment, leadership and management styles a person will perform best under, frequency of interaction with others etc. It’s NOT just about looking at a job posting and seeing if a person has the listed qualifications.

Now if you live with severe anxiety, just like anyone else, you might ask yourself if you want to go on with things the way they are, or would you like a different, (and hopefully) better future. You may have instinctively just thought, “I can’t”. It’s okay; you’re safe and you’re not in any danger just reading on. Things can stay the same even after you’re done reading. So just thinking again for a moment, would you like a future where you make some progress in a safe way?

You may not be ready yet and if so, I understand. Forcing you into situations where your anxiety will be off the charts isn’t going to be helpful. However, for those of you who are willing and able to consider some forward movement, there are some things you can do.

Let me first say that many of the people I help through my work have mental health challenges. Some of these people do in fact have acute, severe anxiety. I want to say right up front that I have tremendous respect just appreciating how difficult it is for them to come and meet with me in the first place. Now my first encounter with many is in a group workshop. That likely sounds terrifying to some readers.

At the start of a workshop, I will mention that should someone have anxiety or feel extreme stress, a good thing would be to let me know as soon as possible. After all, I want the experience to be safe and positive. So what can I do with that knowledge? As the presenter, I can avoid putting such a person in situations that will trigger their anxiety. So I may not ask them to volunteer, avoid asking them to share their feelings or answers with the group, or if I am going around the room asking people to share some answer to a question, always give a person the option to say, “Pass.” This power to opt out of anything threatening alone is a help.

Other small things that help include being able to excuse yourself from the room entirely if an activity seems dangerous or extremely threatening. Get your breathing under control and come back when you’re ready. By creating a safe environment and asking others in the group to show respect and patience with each other, it can be a safe place those with anxiety can attend. It might even take a few attempts before completing a class, but you make the progress you can.

So when you’re ready, (and that’s the key), speak ahead of time with anyone who is running a class or in charge. See what accommodations they can make to keep you safe and included. When you do finish, you’ll have immense satisfaction at having worked through a major hurdle. And as always, you’re worth it!

That Negative Attitude In The Audience


If you’ve ever run a workshop, taught a class, or led a project, I think you’ll agree that one of your hopes is that all the members of your audience actually want to be in attendance and hear what you’ve got to say. After all, when you’ve put a lot of preparation in ahead of time, you’re hoping it will be appreciated.

So perhaps you can identify with the situation I found myself in yesterday. There I was standing before 16 people, just about to welcome them formally and kick off a 7 day Career Exploration workshop. My audience consisted of unemployed people choosing (for the most part) to take this free course and learn not only what jobs or careers might be the best personally fit, but a lot about themselves in the process.

Just as I was about to begin, one person said, “How long is this? I don’t want to be here but my worker is making me. And are you paying for childcare because it’s a PA day today and that’s the only way I could come today.” Now if it were you, what would you say? There’s a few different ways you could respond; kick them out, tell them that’s too bad, maybe even take them aside and tell them you don’t appreciate their attitude. I rejected all of these; none of them actually fit with my style.

I was sad of course, because this overtly negative attitude had the possibility of spreading and infecting others, and what she didn’t know – and still doesn’t – is that she had opted to sit herself down immediately beside a gentleman with phobia’s and severe anxiety. I was sad also to think that this negative attitude was also preventing herself from benefitting from being present. However, things had to be nipped in the bud.

I’ve done workshops and presentations for a long time now, and one of the things I know is that every person in the room starts forming an opinion of the presenter right away. Just like seeing someone for the first time in an interview, or any social situation, we start sizing other people up. So heads turned to me to see how I would respond to this person and what I would say and do. Not the way I would choose to start but a good challenge nonetheless.

“You don’t have to be here; none of you do in fact. You can get up now and walk out the door and miss the extra money, gift card and certificate for attending. You only have to attend one workshop and this isn’t it; it’s optional. If you choose to stay, you’ll not only get extra money, you’ll learn a lot about yourself that you don’t know and you’ll be better prepared to talk about the strengths you’ve got. We’re talking 7 days out of your entire life, and the thing is, it will be fun. So leave now or stay, but if you stay, why not choose to be more positive? You’ll have a better time and so will everyone else.”

She didn’t get up to go. But if you think that her attitude switched immediately, you’re wrong. It did however improve slightly. When I asked people to put their names on both sides of the tent cards in front of them, she put her name on the side facing her and on the other she wrote, “No Name.” Yeah, that wasn’t going to work. So I asked her politely to not fight things all the way, and she relented and switched it around. Oh well, name projecting out and to her, a little hold on her feisty attitude; a compromise. It’s not about wining her over by completely defeating her spirit.

We did an exercise yesterday where everyone developed a personal motto or slogan based on their beliefs and things they hold important. When invited to share her own, she did so, dropping an f-bomb and expressing how the world will mess you up. I decided not to take the offered bait and just thanked her and moved on to the next person.

Later in the day when each person was adding another bit of information to their summary page, I noticed her Motto section was blank. Questioning her, I asked why she hadn’t filled it in. She replied, “I want to take it home and think about it and come up with something better.” To me, this was a breakthrough moment. She was actually investing in the process – in herself really. “Good for you. I really appreciate you deciding to stay and with a positive attitude. Thanks for that”, I replied.

You know, a lot of people have multiple barriers and want their lives to improve. They want better futures for their children and some of the good things in life that they see on television, the movies or in watching other people. I don’t know what this young woman has gone through to get where she is now, nor do I know the effort that is required just to get to class. I hope she sticks out the 7 days and makes it back in today.

Sometimes the people who present with the most overt negative attitudes are the ones who later will appreciate most the help offered them. I hope this is the case here. I also hope the way I’ve handled things is a learning moment for others in the class.