This post is more personal than usual. Three times recently I’ve found myself holding back the tears and not wanting to cry. Different tears, held back in different ways – each way worked.
Tears of Sadness
One of my Mum’s oldest friends died last week – over 80 years of friendship. Jan was a wonderful and generous woman. At the end of the service, the Rabbi reminded us to not ask her grieving family members how they are. We know the answer.
Instead, he says to wish them long life (a Jewish tradition) and share a positive memory. So that’s what I do.
And I tell myself, if her husband and children can hold it together, so can I.
Tears of Fear
The second was waiting for my annual check up with the medical oncologist this morning. I wasn’t happy to see this sign posted on every wall. I’m assuming it means there are more patients.
I have to remind myself not to underestimate the challenge of being back in the same room where part 2 of the slash, poison and burn trilogy of treatment started. It’s 8 years post breast cancer for me. It has got easier.
It was the young man, barely an adult, sitting there like any normal young person would at a bus stop, with his ear buds in. He looked fine. But many do before treatment starts. The tears well up as I think: “he’s too young for this. Why is he by himself?”
I fear for him, and a little for myself.
So I distract myself by watching the Jersey Boys medley on the morning TV.
Tears of Joy
The third was when the medical oncologist said to me,“I think you’re the best I’ve seen you”. It’s true. I’m the best I’ve been in 8 years.
I was so relieved and thrilled all at once that the tears started to well up again.
I held it together and took myself to a toilet cubicle for a private moment. Only to discover the tears had gone. Emotions don’t last like moods do.
Tears at Work
This is the week for tears, this time not mine. Yesterday my client said to me that he can’t bear to raise performance issues with one of his staff members. The last time he did she cried. He confessed he doesn’t know what to do with her tears and is afraid of causing her undue harm.
But he must raise the issues. It’s his job as a leader to help her improve.
Don’t hold back your leadership because someone else can’t hold back their tears.
At first he finds it hard to believe that people cry for different reasons.
That some people cry more easily than others.
And that it’s ok that she cried.
His staff member will be grateful for being held to account… provided he also gives her the support she needs to succeed. That he honours her dignity.
If you neither collapse nor retaliate, but hold steady and with your objectives and their well being in mind… when someone cries, you’ll be more than fine. And so will they.