Wendy Keller is an award-winning former journalist, a literary agent, author, speaker and book marketing consultant. She is the author of 31 published books under nine pseudonyms and 11 self-published books. Her newest book The UItimate Guide to Platform Building (Entrepreneur Press), explains, “A platform is a large, growing group of people who know, like and trust you and your business. These are the people who want whatever you’re selling because it speaks to them and meets their needs. Grow your platform, grow your business.” www.wendykeller.com
Editor’s Note: This guest column was adapted from an open letter to the employees of United Airlines published April 11, 2017 by Wendy Keller after a number of incidents involving United Airlines went viral including the video of David Dao, a physician in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, being forcibly dragged off a United plane at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. United and other major carriers have modified some of their policies since the incident, and United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said in a statement: “I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight, and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way.”
It’s safe to say that many of United’s employees are experiencing low morale, even if they were not directly involved in the incidents. Wendy Keller knows firsthand about the struggle to overcome adversity and how to turn angst into an angle for success. In 1991, Keller was in a car accident that claimed the lives of her two young children and left her in critical condition. Following months of intense pain and physical therapy, she had an epiphany.
“It isn’t about what happens to you, it’s what you do next that counts.”
“I started an intense study into how people throughout history handled the bad things that happened to them. I started to see commonalities and patterns. I tested these strategies in my own life, and things started to get better.”
It’s a terrible feeling when a stranger does something completely wrong and it affects you. You may be feeling shame, shock, guilt, sorrow, anger, embarrassment or rage. Depending on how well your life was (or wasn’t) going at the time of the United Airlines incident, you may be feeling depression or even PTSD.
If you feel you are “guilty by association” by dint of the fact that you were an employee at the time of the incident, you may hear extremely negative comments and have a strong urge to defend yourself. Worse, you may internalize the company’s troubles and make them your own. You may be worried about whether or not your job will survive the crises.
Remember this: You are not the victim here! You are not powerless. In fact, here are 10 tips you (or anyone) can use to get through a crisis.
Tip No. 1. Allow yourself to feel this.
An emotional response to any crisis is normal. How you respond is a reflection of how you respond to other parts of your life. If you tend to be an angry person, that’s how you’ll feel now. If you tend to be shame-based, you’ll feel ashamed. That’s your pattern. Notice when you felt the same way at other times in your life and see if you can detect how you pulled yourself through before, because you certainly did.
Tip No. 2. Accept the hands that are offered.
It may be a hug, a call, an encouraging email from a friend, a shoulder to cry on. Now is not the time to be stoic. As humans, we live in community with others. Some people (ignorant ones) may be unpleasant to you, but others are standing by ready to love, support, counsel, listen and comfort you through this time. Let them. Open yourself to receive. It is good for you, and it is good for them.
Tip No. 3. Be nice to yourself.
Right now, as you’re going through this difficulty, take it easier on yourself than normal. Go to bed a little earlier. Indulge in something you love. Light a scented candle or take the time to set the table nicely. Take an extra long hot shower. Wear outfits that make you feel happy or confident. Spend more time with nice people.
Tip No. 4. Watch for fallout.
When something bad happens, some people decide to change everything they don’t like about their lives all at once. While you’re in the immediate aftermath of a crisis, you’re not thinking so clearly. Now is probably not the time to start a strict diet and exercise routine, to sell the house, to quit your job or to get a divorce. Wait for your emotions to settle down a little. “Act in haste, and you’ll repent in leisure.”
Tip No. 5. Get professional help if you need it.
There’s no shame in taking advantage of wise counsel, whether that’s a clinical psychologist, a clergyperson or a life coach. You’d be amazed to know how many successful, famous people use coaches for every aspect of their lives. Talk this through with an unrelated third party.
Tip No. 6. Give yourself time to heal.
A blow like this can knock the energy right out of you. Even while your conscious mind is helping your kid with math homework or mowing the lawn, your unconscious mind is going to be processing this for a while. The length of time will depend on how you internalize the crisis and how it affects your life. There’s no “should have shrugged it off by” date on a life crisis.
Tip No. 7. Find a way to help someone else.
One of the strangest phenomena about humans is that we work well together. Maybe it’s that old hunter-gatherer thing still echoing, but even as you are accepting help, find ways to help someone else. Maybe it is encouraging a fellow employee instead of continuing to talk about how bad things are; maybe it is doing a favor for a friend; maybe it is formally volunteering to help the homeless or to become a Big Brother or to just independently clean up trash in an empty lot near your house. When we help others, it releases endorphins — the “feel good” chemicals we all love.
Tip No. 8. Beware of addictions.
Whether it is smoking, painkillers, drugs, drinking or anything else — even OCD-related behaviors — emotional stressors tend to cause us to seek those endorphins “the easy way. ”Beware, because you could create an increased dependence on such things. Better to take some time to go through this list and do what you can, and in between, spend a few minutes each day sitting in a quiet place and just taking some deep breaths, thinking about only your breath as it comes in and goes out of your lungs. (This is also a lot cheaper than indulging in most addictions!)
Tip No. 9. Learn from this.
Even if you had nothing directly to do with what happened or why, repeatedly ask yourself, “What can I learn from this experience?” Listen for the answers. They’ll come softly. If you learn something, then the experience wasn’t in vain. It wasn’t a 100 percent waste of time, no matter how discouraging or painful it is to live through it. You may even decide to keep a journal and record the answers your heart comes up with when you ask yourself what the lesson is here.
Tip No. 10. Visualize your victory.
Start thinking about how you want the future to go, and what you’d have to do to make that future a reality. Taking one simple step west will eventually get you to the Pacific Ocean. (In the USA, that is.) Spend some focused time pondering what you’d like as your ideal future. Maybe, to help yourself picture it, cut some pictures out of a magazine or print them from the internet. What do you want your work life to be like? What kind of work do you want to do? What kind of lifestyle do you truly want to live? What kind of people do you want to live with, work with, be friends with? And most important, what kind of person do you need to be to create that wonderful future for yourself? What would have to happen? What can you do to make it happen, and what steps can you take toward that goal?
These 10 steps will move anyone through any crisis, but this time are sent with special love to all United Airlines employees as you collectively suffer the mistakes of a few individuals.
We all have the power to overcome the crises in our lives, and we all are faced with crises multiple times. It isn’t about what happens to you, it’s what you do next that counts. I&FMM