She sounded like a banshee with a stubbed toe. The wail from the cubicle across from mine, as I sat down to try to write this blog post on a layover in Minneapolis, is worse than any caterwauling I’ve ever heard before. I can’t tell if she’s speaking in tongues or lost hers. Right now is not a time for the battery in my noise cancelling headphones to go out but it did! Eeech!
I am usually pretty good at NOT staring or glaring. But several times, the shrieks alternated with the off key something and the guttural noises caused me to jump in my seat and look at her.
And then it hit me… there are times we need noise cancelling headphones at school. We shouldn’t wear them literally all the time, I think. But, there are things we can do to silence the noise when it threatens our ability to bring our best to our students.
There are those who whine, complain, and bellyache so badly that you can’t get your work done. In fact, I started really writing this blog post AFTER she left. Even my Focus@will app couldn’t quite drown out the noise like she was killing cats! (Although I admit, I do NOT know what that sounds like.)
But you know what — I find that the more I hear complaints and “woe is me” kinda stuff – it almost does kill this cat — the Cool Cat Teacher, that is. When I don’t post on my blog for a while: either I’m on a family vacation or… you guessed it… I’m fighting a battle with my attitude. The worst wars with my own attitude are usually started by friendly fire. But there is no such thing. Bad attitudes spread like a virus. Schools need people who can cancel out the noise.
There are two or three places I know I can go to have a down day. There are certain people that if I let them corner me in the hall, I will take a tumble. There are those who just cannot find solutions, only a multitude of problems.
So, here are seven ways to cancel the noise of negativity:
- You can change the subject. Kindly try to redirect the subject to something you know the other person likes.
- You can be upfront about your new hope. You can be direct, “____, I’m working very hard on having an excellent attitude but if we talk about this right now, it is going to be hard to do that. If it is OK with you, could we change the subject so I can stay positive?”
- You can schedule a meeting with those who can do something about it. Sometimes a real issue needs to be handled. Crucial Conversations is a dynamite book that can help you learn how to have productive conversations about hard topics. You can tell the truth AND preserve your relationships with people if you know how because there are people who do it every day. I’m committed to being a leader at my school. I have to be able to be part of crucial conversations. I am committed to being someone that others can speak to and feel safe. I admit that I’ve failed miserably in the past. Admitting failure is the first step on a journey of self-improvement.
Another option with this one is to help the person do something about it. If it is in your power, give them a job to do that will have a measurable result. This technique is often one that will either quiet the complainer or help you make progress.
- Listen. There are people who are rarely negative and need a listen. We all fall and struggle. Sometimes we need someone to listen without trying to give answers. And then, after you listen, try to forget and move on unless you need to do.
- You can walk away. Yes, you can. You do have lots of work to do, so you can say what that is and move on.
- You can avoid the “hot spots”. I can tell when people are congregating and belly aching. When I see it happen as I’m walking in the teacher’s lounge, I keep walking out the door and just take a quick walk to the other building and back.
- You must reprogram yourself. As a Christian, we call it “renewing our mind.” Read success stories about people who overcame problems. Write a joy journal. Move ahead and decide to have an excellent attitude.
Sometimes we all need noise cancelling headphones. Sometimes they are physical headphones but it is usually our ability to hit problems head on with solutions and the avoiding of those who have decided to have a stinky attitude that helps the most.
I’ll never forget that noise coming from the cubicle next to me in Minnesota. I think I’ll replay it in my mind every time I hear unconstructive complaining — they are both just as annoying.
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