READ version – Deal with it early, and you may not have to deal with it again


Published: 20 Oct 2019

Emotional well-being

Sometimes my head gets full of thoughts. So full in fact that I have to stop what I’m doing and just write. So, I always keep notebooks with me. In the car behind both seats. In my handbag. In the case I travel with. And, on the work surface behind where I sit at home. The downside of having a head full of thoughts all of the time is that something has to give. That thing for me is memory.

I wish I had the memory of a goldfish lol – that might be more than I have currently! Because when I think of something, it is literally gone in the next instance if I don’t do something with it – say it out loud or write it down, or make a voice memo (very handy for people like me). I send a lot of voice memos too, so I don’t have to wait to write a text or email. I can just blurt to the person who needs it while it’s fresh in my mind.

Every time I get these thoughts that need to be passed on, and they can happen anywhere – on planes, on benches, in bed the second I open my eyes, in the car, while I’m talking to people, while I’m in quiet reflection and this time, this morning when I woke up it was as the result of a dream. (Quite common for me too).

In this dream last night, a guy was trying to get me to do things I didn’t want to do. Random weird things (as dreams often are). The setting was some kind of dare game show or cabaret night. Lots of people sitting around on round tables and an MC in a sharp suit at the front. He picked on people and got them to do things to see if they could do them and come back. He picked on me and asked me to go to a shop and buy a set of drinking glasses. Before I knew it, I was in a Briscoes and looking at boxed sets of glasses. Once I started looking at glasses an assistant came up to me and said “Oh, you need a set of glasses?” I said “No, in fact I definitely don’t want glasses. I’m a minimalist, the least stuff I attract and own the better. I don’t need any more glasses and don’t want to collect any more stuff.” Nec minute poof! I was magically back in the room telling him I didn’t do it because I don’t want any more glasses.

I then must have gone out of the dream for a while, but the minute I started to dream again I was back in that room. This time he told me to go and buy a chicken – like a live chicken you keep in your garden. I went to the back of the room and started looking up who sells chickens on my phone, and a woman next to me said, “I love chickens. Imagine having chickens running around in your garden that can lay eggs for you.”

I stopped dialing and said, “I can’t have chickens, I’m away at least 2 weeks out of 4 in every month, and I don’t even have any grass or garden. The extra inconvenience of finding someone to look after a single chicken every time I work away would be ridiculous!”

I do love looking after chickens by the way. In my house sitting days, I’ve looked after many chickens. I love the fact that you get an instant hit of appreciation when you sprinkle the feed pellets, I love the fact that they free roam without a care in the world all day, and then are clever enough to put themselves to bed at the same time at night. The only thing they actually need a human for is to scatter the feed, (and they would find food and water for a few days without you anyway as they are resourceful little beings). So, the only thing they really need you for is to keep them safe from predators and put the latch on the pen at night so big scary dogs and foxes can’t get in and rough them up…….or worse.

Stick with me now, it’s a long story today. Within a nano second of waking I started to google ‘dreams about chickens’ which are about good luck or making changes in your life apparently. Well, who doesn’t like luck? And yes, I am thinking about changes in my life – moving from Queenstown to Southland, where the bulk of my work is for the next few months. Glasses? Represents confident expectations about something you are planning on doing. Aha, more good news about my move. And yet, my gut instinct, which rarely steers me wrong, was having a wobbly and a ‘Nah Steph’ moment.

When I get the urge to write quickly it’s usually to see where I can help the most people in the biggest way. So yes, the dream may be about my intention to move? But my gut was screaming “Deal with it early and you may not have to deal with it again.” “Deal with it early and you may not have to deal with it again.” A saying I feel like I’ve been saying for the past 10 days I’ve been away from home this time on the road. During my time away this time I’ve been teaching and coaching people aged from 5 to 70. In schools, businesses and other organisations. What do they all have in common despite their geographic differences of 1,827 kilometres, ages, and settings I taught them in? In all instances I was feeling the need to say, “So, you see, if you say it early enough, whatever it is that you don’t want to do, don’t like being done or said to you, you may not have to deal with it again. So, deal with it early.”

Yes, the contexts may be different: Sibling or playground bullying. Workplace dominance by people who think aggression is clever and their ‘right’. Young people of different generations affecting how managers have to manage them. Old ‘pings’ still rattling around in your can from family events that never got dealt with. “Deal with it early, and you may not have to deal with it again.”

I’ve had 316 real live humans in front of me on this trip, and no matter what life, or work was throwing at them I was saying the same thing to them. Don’t wait. Deal with it early and you may not have to deal with it again. If you deal with it at the point of impact. Ground Zero. The ‘see it, say it’ moment. When you get pinged. You send a clear message that the behaviour/words/suggestion/demands are not acceptable to you.  You also corrective coach people or re-programme them from not doing or saying it to you again, so it is much less likely to happen if dealt with quickly. Even the most resistant of people – and I’ve seen a few this trip with indignant body language and facial expressions. People who didn’t want me there. Who thought that the training was a waste of time and didn’t apply to them! Who blamed anyone but themselves for the long-term predicament they found themselves in!

Whether you believe that this message came to you from a dream state or a more tangible state (my everyday work), I’d like you to take it to heart please. Don’t wait. Whatever you’re dealing with. Deal with it early.

You’ve likely heard me tell the stories. The petrol station queue in Mount Eden, the breadboard left out, the socks, the unfilled jug, the unforgiven word 13/23/40 years ago. I tell stories in my work instead of showering you with Power Points because they are real. Real people. Real stories. The topic may be different but the reason they happened is ALWAYS the same reason. Someone felt ‘pinged’ and didn’t do anything about it at the point of impact. They left it – sometimes for years. And in the time in between ….. resentment kicks in, hate even, despair, detachment, diminished love. It’s never pretty, and sometimes it’s pretty ugly.

A question I say at every workshop and in front of almost every group every week? How long is enough? How long can you put up with whatever you’re putting up with while you don’t do anything? 3 minutes, 3 hours, 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months, 3 years, 30 years?

Deal with it early, and you may not have to deal with it again.

Some people don’t change straight away but they can’t unhear what you said to them when you stepped up and dealt with it.

With some people it takes an army or a village to get the message across. Many voices all singing the same song. There is strength in numbers, and if enough people don’t ‘feed that kitten’ and all stand together then they can’t be oppressed, undermined or treated badly by the one.

If someone is so resistant that they won’t change – then you have a decision to make. That could mean firing that person. Removing that person from your life. Or, leaving your job – and a top Psychologist in a recent mental health awareness seminar I went to actually said that – which I thought was quite rare. He said “If you’ve really tried everything and they won’t change, then do yourself the hugest favour and leave.”

The best part about having body language as my first language? I see every emotion on people’s faces and in their bodies as they unfold their stories to me.

The worst part about having body language as my first language? I see every emotion on people’s faces and in their bodies as they unfold their stories to me!

Things not dealt with, are not dealt with. They sit. They fester. They wither. They diminish. They rattle around in you. Other people nearly always don’t know what you are feeling (because you’ve not told them). So, tell them. Say it out loud. At the point of impact. Deal with it early. Then you might not have to deal with it again.

And remember the chickens. All they really need a human for is to put the latch on the pen and keep them feeling safe so they can sleep at night. Nurture other people. Help them feel safe.

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