Letting it Go – Not Giving Up!
May 24, 2019
"Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.” - Ann Landers
Over the past 18 months or so, I’ve had a spate of friends, both personal and professional, go through very rough patches in their lives. Divorce, separation, down turns in business… you name it. When I am asked, I try to give each of them thoughtful feedback and advice. In each case, the advice boiled down to two words: Let go. Let go of that failed relationship, your hurt, your resentment, the past missteps, how others let you down, how you let yourself down and your general disappointment. And stop replaying those negative events over and over in your mind; If you don’t, you’ll never be happy or able to move forward.
Of course, without much of a leap, this brought me to our industry and the difference between those who are in it for the long haul, are successful and generally happy and satisfied and those who flame out quickly, or, stay in but are miserable and bitter. The difference is having and using that ability to let go, because in community management, there is a lot to let go of.
We deal with people’s living arrangements and that makes everything very personal to them. Personal = Emotional. Mix equal parts instant communication platforms and a general lack of courtesy, and this witches brew turns in to what feels like – and often is - a continuously hostile environment. The never-ending parade of loud and unpleasant complaints; the bad meeting(s); the Committee member actively trying to undermine you; the mistake you made (but couldn’t foresee); being publicly called out at the Annual General Meeting for something over which you had no control… In short, everything that makes community management and your job difficult, stressful and toxic to your well-being. To you, managers, I say: Let. It. Go.
Learning to let go
Typically, when one of those very unpleasant events takes place you are so caught off guard, so blown away, so incredulous that someone would even think to say some something so hurtful, or make such an outlandish and unfounded statement, or betray your trust that you just can’t believe it. That “disbelief” is what keeps the video clip playing in your head. Soooo… The first step in learning to let it go is to accept that it happened. Believe it, own it, and say yes, it happened. It sucked, but it did happen. Then:
Stop reliving it. Whatever happened that has made you crazy, it’s natural to want to go back and relive (relish?) every detail and what you coulda-woulda-shoulda said or done. When this occurs you absolutely must get it out of your head. Talk it out once, or twice (and that’s all, no serial venting!) with a trusted colleague, friend or partner. Or, write it down and file it. If that doesn’t work, literally move yourself physically away from where you are and do something else; go for a walk, head to the gym, or start on a project that requires your full attention (I usually head to the kitchen for a therapeutic round of binge cooking).
It’s in the past. Allowing Mr. Smith’s rant from the last Thursday’s meeting to take up head space keeps you from focusing on what’s happening today, and it crushes your morale and productivity. Realize and own that it’s over, gone, finito, and unless you have a TARDIS, there is nothing you can do to change it. The past is past. Learn from it and let it be. By giving hours, days, weeks or months to simmering resentment or hurt, you are preventing yourself from moving on to new things. Not letting go keeps you stuck in that past by keeping it alive in your present.
"But I don’t want to let it go!"
Many of us just don’t want to let go because “I am right! And when I am right I am right and they are wrong and I know what I am doing and they don’t!” Meh. I get it. Being a martyr can be very satisfying, making everyone see just how much you are suffering under the heavy burden of the stupidity of others… blah blah blah. If you can’t let go because you want to show off your suffering, well, have at it and find some like-minded martyrs with which to share (I’m sure there’s at least 1 or 2 in your office… Call Uber and head to a bar). Just know this: Being Little Mary Martyr may feel good in the short-term, but it’s not a productive or healthy way to handle your profession. And it makes you annoying.
“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” Alexander Graham Bell
The benefits of letting go
Letting go of the past has a lot of benefits, namely better mental health. Your mental health. It also promotes job satisfaction in that you will be better able to see the positive effect you have on your clients (whether they know it or not). Letting go frees up space in your head, allowing you to take on new or pressing projects and tasks with focus and clarity. Lastly, you won’t end up a bitter and depressed community manager, ironically mimicking the very people who cause the events that need to be let go.
Letting go is not giving up!
If you feel that letting go of some past event is just giving up on it, well, that would be true if you failed to learn something from it. For each negative event, slight, relationship or whatever you let go of, there is something to be learned about other people and especially about yourself. Did you handle it well? What would you do differently? What perspective did you gain? Giving up means you learned nothing. Letting go means you have let go of emotion and moved on to the meaning of, and the learning derived from, the event.
Letting go is a vital part of your professional and personal armor, as the inability to do so can lead to loss of friends, divorce, illness, depression and alcohol and drug abuse among other pleasant things. As a community manager, not being able to let go of all those little battles will keep you from being not only your best professional self, but your best personal self.
Can you do it? Yes, you can. I did, and became a better manager, business person, mentor, partner and friend. If I can do it, you can too - and you will live in the now, not the past. Let. It. Go.
This article was contributed by Julie Adamen, Adamen Inc.