Last winter I retired from my family’s rental car business in order to work full-time at Haleakala Waldorf High School. I had no idea how much I would learn from the students and my colleagues. I had no idea this career move would be the beginning of an amazing personal development journey.
Four months into the somewhat rocky journey, I discovered that I still had a lot to learn about relationships and communication. I was the central base for students and faculty to come and vent to. At first, this was simply because I was the only one who stayed in the same place, but it continued because I really listened to what people were saying and they needed my support. Giving all that attention and energy to everyone who came through my door was draining.
I needed to get a grip. Metaphorically speaking, I needed better tires. Sure, I could drive on bald tires and not spend the money on new ones, but, with bald tires I would slip and slide on wet roads, get stuck in the mud, spin out in gravel, and get bad gas mileage. Also, I would stay on the beaten path rather than explore off the road. I chose to get four new tires.
Over the next several months, I acquired one new tire at a time.
With so many people calling and passing through my office, I am often overwhelmed with the number of conversations and the amount of information-download happening. By putting on my first new tire, asking “How may I help?,” I find I am more effective in getting things done, and helping others get things done with much more efficiency. Asking “How may I help” has allowed me to provide service in a positive way, because it invites a person with a need to put into words precisely what that need is. Sometimes those precise words clarify a need that I am capable of fulfilling and sometimes not. I’ve found people feel heard and cared for from being asked this simple question, and it keeps me from trespassing into areas where I have not been specifically invited.
From my family’s business, I know that tires should be installed in pairs, so I installed tire number two, “Presume Goodwill.” In every phone conversation, email, or personal encounter, I am learning to assume
, and believe
that the person I am dealing with is friendly, helpful, kind, and cooperative. A big thing that helped me with this tire is realizing that everyone has good intentions, but for whatever reason, they may not be able to communicate those intentions in a positive way. This helps me to practice allowing everyone to be exactly who they are. They can deal with whatever they may be dealing with in life that has nothing to do with me – and no matter what, I get to maintain my own personal attitude of goodwill toward all.
With my two new tires, I started cruising along pretty well. Winter break came, so I took advantage of a few days off and got my third tire, “Use direct speech.” This seems so simple, yet it can be so challenging. Here’s how it works: If a person is not in the room, I don’t talk about them. When I practice this, hearsay does not fly around me and gossip cannot exist. I cannot speak for anyone who isn’t present. If someone has a question or complaint about someone, I direct them straight to that person. This has led to clearer communication in the workplace and in my personal life, which has smoothed the ride on a lot of previously bumpy roads.
To round out my four new tires, I added tire number four, “Say thank you,” right away. In the past, if someone spoke disrespectfully, I never imagined that simply saying “thank you” would change the direction of the conservation. I’ve found that saying thank you – thank you for this information or thank you for calling or thank you for your patience – lets others know they have been heard. Finding a way to say “thank you” opens the door for authentic communication.
Driving on four new tires allows me to connect and serve with integrity and kindness. More action takes place due to fewer communication blockages. The new habits of asking “How may I help?,” presuming goodwill, using direct speech, and saying “thank you” have created a healthy work environment. This inspirational environment has shown me not to ask what am I getting from working here, but who have I become. For this I am forever grateful.