Handle Bad News With Grace
The art of response
by Adrianne Stone
Consider the following: Your boss has just given you the old heave ho - you've been pink slipped. Now how do you react? Your hot water heater has exploded, flooding your basement and incurring an expense far beyond what you can afford - and insurance barely covers it. How do you react?You've just learned that you have a serious illness. You're not sure how you'll cope with the pain, the cost and the anticipated time away from work. How do you react? Any of the above examples can be seen as a catastrophe, but if you try to find the flip side, you may weather the storm with greater ease and grace.
Grace is not just a state to which one can aspire. Grace is what one demonstrates when greeted with life's great disappointments where dignity and a sense of serenity come in.
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Grace under fire This is, of course, often easier said than done. How can one become calm when faced with bad news? Well, that's the whole point: When the bad news hits, resist the urge to kick, scream and pummel your way as you vent your anger. Instead, take several deep, calming breaths and focus. What does this bad news mean to you? How will it affect you? What can you do to face it head-on? This is a time for you to be practical and to examine your situation objectively.
Let's look at the circumstances above: Learning that you've lost your job may feel like a sucker punch to the gut, but remaining calm is beneficial for several reasons. First, because your employer will appreciate your lack of dramatics, so when you ask them for a letter of reference, they will be much more likely to assist you. Plus, you never know what company the person firing you may end up at - they may be in a position to hire you again somewhere else.Second (and most important!), is the grace that you show demonstrates that you are in control and thus makes you feel more in control. Who knows, when you work out a severance package, you may be more likely to receive the optimal arrangement because of your clear headed grace. Third, because the feeling you get from this graceful demeanor will physically and emotionally help to actually calm you. Yes, you still must search for a job, but at least you'll have left with your dignity - and your contacts - intact.
Emotional intelligence Dealing with news of a serious illness is perhaps the most troubling because your mortality is now in question. So calmly digest the news and examine what this means to you. You'll need to ensure that your health policy and your finances are in order. You'll need to arrange for assistance from a close friend or family member for doctor visits, treatments and home care. You'll need to get your finances in order and arrange your schedule to accommodate your treatments. But above all, this is the need to find a calm place - a state of grace - that will see you through. Screaming, panicking, and losing control won't make you better and will push people away - doctors, nurses, advisors - whom you really depend upon to help you. So take that deep breath, examine your situation, and deal with this gracefully. Bear in mind that doctors tend to respond more favorably to patients who have taken the time to intelligently assess their situation and ask the right questions rather than those patients who try and place blame.
Strength in balance As for the flooded basement scenario, it's bad… but no one will die from this. You will arrange for someone to pump out the water, and someone else to install a new heater. Yes, the cost will be painful, but demonstrating your graceful state (and maybe even a little humor!) will make it easier on everyone.
In all these cases, if you can find that sense of grace and balance, you will come through the situation a much stronger person. In fact, it will help you build character. Many people over the age of 40 find that this becomes easier as they age. What would once have sent them into a tizzy now becomes water down their backs. They've been through the anger and losing control and have learned that this doesn't solve their problems. Try repeating "this, too, shall pass" like a mantra… because it shall.
Life is full of challenges, but it's how we meet them that says the most about us. Be graceful, be calm, find a serene place in your heart and tap into that when faced with the worst and you will be happier for it.