When in doubt, compassion, first, second and third.
About a year ago I was working on a project which had a few challenging moments. It was a lot of overnight filming, in the winter, in the woods, in the middle-of-nowhere-Idaho.
This work environment can be challenging for a lot of people and can certainly set people on edge and prime personalities that don't mesh well to be an even more difficult dynamic to overcome.
One night, at around 3am-and-I-can-no-longer-feel-my-toes-O'clock one of the people I was working with said "Annie! How can you still be so nice!? Even Now?!"
And I sang back "Looove and compasssion, is all that I'm made of...." (the tune of some long lost disco song)
"That's so true Annie, that's so true...."
This moment, and this song has been echoing in my head a lot lately.
Recently after rolling into fashion week in New York I immediately realized how lucky and grateful I was to be working on a team with two other women. Having to roll into full swing NYFW post Kenya was a little more challenging than I wanted it to be, and after being surrounded by such a beautiful group of strong, loving, supportive and inspiring women and girls... if I had been the only woman on the team... I don't think I would have made it.
Not only was my team made up of women... but they were women who, like me, do not find being nice to be a weakness.
We're all nice first.
In the first week, one of the women I was working with was having a rough day and so I offered to make her some tea. This seems like a simple action, but when you're in an office environment, working under someone, it can be a trap of getting stuck in a subservient position. It was immediately clear that this would not be the case and it was genuinely appreciated.
It's hard to explain the kind of relief I felt.
It is in my nature to make you tea if you are having a rough day.
It's in my nature to hug you, and take a deep breath, and try to help you relax.
It's in my nature to ask if you're ok and if there's anything I can do to help.
And too often, so often, this is taken as being soft, being weak, or translates to an assumption of a lower skill set; if you have nothing better to do than make me tea, then clearly your time isn't important.
But here, this was not the case.
Both of the women I was working with operate with the same MO that I do: be nice first, see how far it gets you. Don't allow anyone to walk over you, but always try to help everyone you're working with because it's a lot easier to ask for a favor from someone who smiles at you than to demand a deal from someone who's on guard.
Understanding where someone is coming from means that you can negotiate better. You understand their needs, where compromises can be made, and what you might be able to do to make it more worth their while.
It's good in business, and it's good in life.
It is So Easy to get worked up in how something effects us.
Someones actions have the ability to change our mood 180°.
For me, probably the biggest culprit is not feeling appreciated.
If I don't feel appreciated I can go from dropping everything so I can hold your hand to bitter and disconnected, it takes me a while to get to that point, but when it hits, it hits hard.
Sometimes it can be difficult to step back and find the compassionate viewpoint, to take a moment and figure out why this person might not be able to appreciate or respect me the way I'd like in this moment. Maybe something is getting in the way for them...
99% of the time, if I can find a way to understand what their life situation is in that moment... I have a deeper understanding and respect for their actions.
The lesson that this boils down to for me is: Compassion First.
Some times we don't get the opportunity to fully understand where the other person is coming from or what circumstances they are dealing with that caused them to take whatever action is getting under our skin.
But chances are, if we knew, we wouldn't react the same way.
Chances are we'd have compassionate understanding.
Maybe our feelings would still be hurt but it would be tempered with acceptance.
And so if we can accept that as the truth, whether we have all of the information or not, maybe we can skip straight to compassion.