When I was in college, I found myself involved in a lot of long and rambling conversations. These were pivotal conversations because they marked most assuredly that the other person and I were now friends. They were those kinds of conversations where you decide you are going to trust the other person, so you start unwinding the tale of your life as if you had known them all along.
While the conversations were sweet, I also began to dread them a little bit. I was stunned that more often than not, the stories that were being told always included some big revelation that I’d have never guessed. People talked of terrible, abusive relationships, the deaths of family members, being victimized by rapists or other sorts of offenders, and more. While I cherished the fact that I was being trusted with these tales, it also never failed to break my heart. People who seemed happy, who were clearly developing into friends who would be (one hoped) an important player in my life were now laying before me things I didn’t want to think about them experiencing.
These revelations throughout my college and grad school years greatly impacted how I view people when I meet them today. When I meet people now, I tend to assume that they have “that” story. Maybe they have more than one. This inspires me to be more gentle with people and more patient. I don’t know what weight they’re carrying around. Maybe that day marks a painful anniversary that I have no idea about.
As an entrepreneur, it is essential to understand how “your thing” impacts you on a daily basis. Maybe there are certain subjects that you find painful. Barring the ability to censor other people, you will need to find ways to maintain your cool as these topics arise. Maybe someone unwittingly asks you a question that calls to mind negative experiences. You must know yourself well enough to know what your triggers are, and then you need to be able to plan how you will handle those tough situations with grace.
It’s also important to understand that people coming to you also have their own stories, their own issues that perhaps plague them in ways they do not even recognize. While these factors can’t always be interwoven into how you handle your business, it can help keep your interactions with people in perspective. Even though it stinks to be treated poorly or with a lack of respect, the issue is very probably something completely unrelated to you that only that person knows.
Everybody has a story. Everybody has that “something” that they carry on their shoulders. Knowing this about the people with whom you work, and most importantly, knowing this about yourself, can help you keep your focus on your overriding mission, whatever that may be.