Did you know there’s a thing called “Blue Hand Disease” (Raynaud’s phenomenon)? I didn’t either until I frantically googled to find out why my hands were blue. It was May and I didn’t feel cold and I didn’t have anything apparently cutting off my circulation, but at age 17, I was sadly accepting my fate of losing my hands to blueness.
I called my parents in a panic; they were out of town at the time. “Call the doctor and see if you can get in today,” my mom told me, feeling terrible that she wasn’t nearby to console and care for me.
I sat silently in the exam room, exchanging worried glances with my sister as we waited for the doctor to arrive.
The doctor came in, asked me several questions, and performed all the usual checks. Everything was normal. “Well, Brett. You’re completely healthy. I am wondering though: are your jeans new?”
I scrunched my eyebrows together. “Yes,” I said confusedly.
She dabbed a paper towel with a little water from the sink and rubbed it on the back of my hand. The blue left that spot on my hand and stained the paper towel. Denim dye.
I was no longer concerned about my blue hands, but rather my red face from embarrassment. My sister couldn’t help but laugh. I couldn’t help but cry. We were both just so glad I was going to be okay.
I don’t know about you, but I often see versions of my story in the workplace. In essence, people’s first reaction, especially in the midst of change, is to jump to conclusions and prepare for the worst. Often times, these molehills we turn into mountains keep us from seeing the solution that’s right in front of us.
Have you heard people in your office/workplace say, “Well, I know how this is going to go,” or “I really don’t have a choice in the matter.” Me too. The reality is though, you always have a choice, no matter how difficult it may be.
Here are a couple tricks I’ve discovered that keep me from making mountains out of molehills when times get hard.
What do you know to be true?
In the midst of conflict, drama, or change, my boss always says, “What do you know to be true?” This is an effective question to ask yourself when you feel yourself starting to let subjective assumptions make up your mind about someone or something.
Staying focused on what actually happened and paying less attention to how things might have been intended or how things might end up keeps your eyes on things that you can realistically work with. I’ll be the first one to say this isn’t always easy.
I’m a pretty steady gal. I’ve never liked to rock the boat or cause problems, so one day when my tenured co-worker stormed over to my desk to hostilely tell me to scrap months’ worth of work because it was “too different from before,” I fell into the “my hands are blue, I’m going to die” panic. I was blinded by the conflict and feeling inferior that I jumped to the conclusion that I would either 1) have to submit to their demands and sacrifice all my own desires or 2) I’d have to avoid them for the rest of, well, ever.
After I realized that number 2 wasn’t plausible, and I deserved better than number 1, I asked myself, “What do I know to be true?” I know that my co-worker has a dominant personality and is motivated by results. I know that they are unsure about the project, not upset with me. I know that hiding my true feelings could be more harmful in the long run than speaking candidly.
That leads me to my next point. Here’s another question to ask yourself:
How can I contribute to making things better?
At this point, I still had a choice to make. I could have trusted the myth that “conflicts resolve themselves over time” in order to avoid any uncomfortable confrontation. Or I could make the decision to play an active role in solving the problem.
At C&A Industries, we’re regularly encouraged to take personal accountability for everything we do. Asking myself, “How can I contribute to making things better with my co-worker?” is just part of my workplace expectations. As difficult as it is for a harmonious person like me to approach a conflict head on, I knew that was the contribution I could make to solve the problem.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the world didn’t end when I confidently approached them with my side of the story. On the contrary, I think the world threw a party for me because it went so well! And the best part? I didn’t compromise who I am just to get the reaction I wanted. I simply stuck to what I knew to be true and maintained a “how can we work together to make this better” approach. It felt as great as the moment the doctor wiped away the blue on my hands.
How do you keep yourself from making mountains out of molehills?
Brett Hicks joined C&A Industries in the fall of 2013 as an intern. Now, a full-time Project Manager in the Training department, she supports the company with eLearning and creative work, writing, editing, and some classroom training. Brett is also a wife and a twin, a singer and pianist, and believes that listening well and encouraging others makes the world a better place.