Be Proud

When new people arrive, I tell them to be proud of the uniform they wear and the service they provide our country, but please, never be too proud to ask for help. In the organization I’m in, pride is big. In life, a lot of things are bigger.

I’m not saying to go running for help with every problem. Conflict is good, just like some stress is good. Learning to deal with it will make you a better communicator, a better leader, and a better person. Unfortunately, some conflicts can’t be resolved alone.

When I was a lab tech, if I couldn’t get blood from a patient in two tries, I probably wasn’t going to get it on the third. After two attempts, said patient normally wouldn’t be in the mood to let me try again, so I would go get some help. Now I use the same approach to most life stressors. Financial problems, relationship problems, stress management, and other things that distract us are dangerous. If a person isn’t focused on the job at hand, he could lose a hand.

Once you’ve identified a problem, which is usually pretty easy, try to deal with it. That might not work, but don’t worry. Try again; give it another shot. If that doesn’t work, get some help. I know, it makes sense when I put it this way, but more often than not, people just keep trying to solve things themselves without having all the right resources.

If you were sitting in a chair with two holes in your arm from me not getting blood, why would you let me try again? That’s just silly. So, who should I go get to try next? I know. I’ll go get the new guy. Maybe he’ll get lucky. Good idea, right?

Of course not. Again, silly.

So when you don’t get it right on your second try, and we can both agree that it’s time to ask for help, will you ask? And no, I don’t think everybody needs to get into therapy. By and large, the average person can resolve 95%, maybe even 99%, of all the regular stressors in life. A young man gets behind on a car payment, or learns how hard it can be to manage that first credit card. He makes some adjustments, and in a month or two, he’s back on track. Two friends get into an argument that affects work and their circle of friends. They figure out what went wrong, they apologize and work towards getting back to where they started.

Again, conflict is good. Stress of the right type and in the right measure is good. When you need to resolve some stressor, give it two honest tries. If you haven’t gotten back to normal or redefined normal after those two tries, you either haven’t identified the real cause of your stress, or it’s not something you’re going to resolve on your own with the tools you have. But, here’s the thing: That conflict needs to be resolved.

Experience, both my own and in guiding the people around me, has shown that the third attempt is usually the one that looks a lot like flailing. By the time that dies down, the situation is usually distracting not just you but the people around you. Again, all I want to say is that distractions are dangerous. We don’t need to get into the messy details.

After the second try, those in need often do ask for help. They ask a coworker or friend what they should do, but it would be just like me handing the needle to the new guy and wishing you both good luck. How about, and this is just a crazy idea, asking someone with the right resources and training to help you solve that specific problem?

And now, the hard part…

When someone has tried twice and is now asking you for help with something that couldn’t be resolved, don’t be too proud to admit you don’t have the right answer. If you really want your friend to succeed, refer him or her to people who are trained to deal with those issues.

– Here’s where I would normally ask an open-ended question to get some feedback, but I don’t have one that won’t bring up some messy stuff, and I don’t want us to focus too much on the negative, so have a great week out there.

– JT

James Tinker

About James Tinker

James was born and raised in Bangor, and left home at 18 for the Navy. Twenty-five years later, he retired as highest enlisted rank on a warship in San Diego. His popular blog series, The Day Job, shares personal and professional lessons learned through his career.