The weather forecast before I went to bed Saturday evening was for light snow where I live and heavier snow in the northern region of the metropolitan area. It’s a Saturday night so not a big deal about getting snow, right?
The church building is only a mile from our house so getting there, assuming we could get out of our subdivision, would be a piece of cake in the morning. Anyway, that would have been my typical thought that Saturday evening.
Instead, however, I had a flight to Texas scheduled for 7 a.m. Sunday morning. Snow and flight schedules usually don’t work well together.
To prepare for a potentially longer than normal commute to the airport (which is usually only 30 minutes from where I live), I planned on waking up early.
A gentle and subtle alarm woke me at 3:30 Sunday morning. I quickly turned the alarm off so as to not wake my wife and rolled out of bed. You might think this to be an unusually early morning but my alarm is generally set for 3:45. What’s 15 minutes in the grand scheme of things.
When I finally got my bearings, I realized it wasn’t snowing outside. But, it was raining pretty heavily. That didn’t mean it wasn’t snowing at the airport so I better just get ready and leave.
All I had to do was shower, put my bags in the car (because I had them all packed the night before) and walk out the door. It was so early and I wasn’t going to see any clients that day so I saved some time by not shaving. For the guys reading this, you know how great that feels!
I normally get to the airport at least two hours early and this would put me there right about that time. That is, if there wasn’t a delay in route due to snow.
Thankfully there was no snow on the drive to the airport but there was heavy rain. I had to drive slower than normal because at certain points I couldn’t see the highway at all. Even with that, I still arrived at the airport, parked the car, checked my bags and made it through security all before 5 a.m. It was going to be a successful travel day.
Being out of town on business all week gave me the opportunity to perform a little social experiment. The thought of the experiment didn’t occur to me until the evening of that Sunday in Texas.
For me, shaving is the worst part of every day. My beard is so thick and tough that it is simply painful to do. I did recently change over to using razors from Dollar Shave Club and that has made shaving a much less painful experience.
Shaving still is not on top of my list of things I love to do. That’s why I didn’t shave that early Sunday morning.
I usually shave six days a week; five days for work and on Sunday for church. Saturdays are usually my only respite from the pain. Not so this week. Not shaving on Sunday made it two glorious days in a row!
Hmm…what if I could extend the streak? I won’t see my wife all week (and she really is the primary driver of why I shave because she does not like the feel of my beard), I’ve only met the client once and that was two years earlier so they won’t know I am normally clean-shaven and my beard is so thick that after two days it looks pretty good.
Yep, I decided that Sunday evening, I wasn’t going to shave all week and see what happened. Actually, I wanted to try to measure who commented on me not being clean-shaven. Would people I didn’t see often say anything? What about those people when I returned home? What would they say?
I’ve noticed this trend frequently throughout the years when I do something out of the ordinary. I’m very routine and practiced so people I see often can tell when something is different.
Would I get positive or negative comments about not shaving?
I hypothesized I would not get any comments from my clients whom I hadn’t seen in two years. While we got along well the first time and they appreciated the work I had done for them, our personal relationship was not at the point of commenting on something like that.
I also hypothesized that people I see often back home would have negative comments (but in a joking way) about me not shaving.
It has now been nine full days since I shaved last. The beard is full but nicely trimmed. It’s not ZZ Top or Duck Dynasty by any stretch of the imagination. I would never do that.
So what did people say or not say?
The entire week in Texas was a non-event as far as this little social experiment was concerned. No one said a single thing, just as I had hypothesized.
The results when I arrived back in St. Louis were mixed. Some comments met my expectations. Some caught me off guard.
I believe this is the point where I need to disclose that I am not upset or even put out by people making negative comments, even in a joking way. That’s how some people do things and I’ve done it too.
So if you know you said one of these negative comments to me, don’t feel bad about it. I don’t think less of you in any way. Because, as I just said, I’ve done the same thing.
The most comments I received were at church on the Sunday morning I returned from Texas. The following are the types of comments I received:
“You lost something.” [my razor]
“You’re going scruffy today.”
“What’s that on your face?”
“You forgot to shave today.”
Most of the critical comments I received were similar to the above. Before I was in the church building for five minutes, I had received at least six negative comments. It could have even been more; I was trying to get my daughter to Bible class so I was somewhat distracted.
I fully expected these comments, especially from my brothers and sisters in the church, because I am almost always in a full suit and clean-shaven. It’s a piece of my personal brand. I’ve worked hard to develop that brand. People are not used to seeing me in a beard.
In all, I estimate I received about 20 critical comments in a two-and-a-half hour period. It was just as I expected.
What I didn’t expect, though, were the positive comments I received. Ironically, almost each of the persons who complimented my beard also wear facial hair. They loved it and were not afraid to tell me so.
Why did I perform this little social experiment? What did it really tell me?
No, I did not do it to see who were positive or negative people. I didn’t do it to discover who liked me and who didn’t.
Instead, the purpose for the social experiment was to see how people react to change. We know no one will change until the pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same.
That has nothing to do with how people react when someone else changes and those changes don’t affect the onlookers.
When people saw a change in me, I wanted to know how they’d react. Would they be positive or negative, complimentary or condescending? Would they relate to my change? Would they talk about themselves when noticing my change or would they be inquisitive about me?
Again, none of these answers or discoveries are good or bad. They are what they are.
I’ve already stated some of my expectations came to fruition and I was surprised by other results. Besides those actual results, I’ve extrapolated some other results.
We all want to feel important and saying simple things like, “Did you lose your razor?” is one way to be heard.
Everyone wants to feel important. We want to feel needed. Speaking up when we see a change in someone can help us realize those feelings. In our minds, we are important and that person needed to hear what we had to say.
In reality, however, neither of those is true. The person with the change does not think the critic any more important than before and he definitely did not need to hear the criticism.
When I look back over the years to some of the people who have criticized me for any reason, I can see a correlation to that person’s self-esteem and how critical he is/was.
Unconfident people criticize. They’ll criticize anything for any reason. Simply because it makes them feel better.
The lowest performer in a company criticizes management instead of recognizing he does not do his job well. A student criticizes a teacher for “giving” him a poor grade instead of recognizing he earned that grade. A spouse criticizes his partner for not helping around the house instead of recognizing how little he does.
The examples are limitless. A low self-esteem will generate a critical attitude.
You can typically spot someone with high self-esteem within minutes of entering a room. Those people are positive, out-going and successful.
Pay attention to a positive person talk. She won’t use words like can’t, never, have to. She’ll use words like want, will, get to.
Our culture, it seems, is built on sarcasm and negativity. It’s a fear-based, scarcity model of business we work in each day.
Positive people don’t accept that as the status quo. They use their positivity to create abundance, happiness and success. They first do this through words and then through actions.
Negative people, on the other hand, only know negativity. They use negative words like no, nothing, can’t. They don’t, won’t and can’t make their lives better.
For negative people, spreading negativity is second nature. To be fair, they don’t mean any harm by it (in most cases). It’s just who they are. They’ve never experienced the joy that comes from changing their attitude.
How many people have you met that, no matter the circumstance, you knew would be honest? Even if it wasn’t the safest thing to say, honesty would be upheld.
Of all the comments I heard regarding not being clean-shaven, one comment stood out above all others. A co-worker, when she first saw me, grinned and said, “I don’t like it. You’re supposed to be clean-shaven. It’s not you.”
You would think those words could sting my ego. From her, though, they didn’t. I knew she was right. Although a co-worker, she is a true friend. I knew that what she said came from the heart and was for my best interest.
Too few people will be honest without fault. We worry about the consequences of the truth if someone doesn’t like what is said. We worry about what people think; what they might say. We worry too much.
The truth should always be spoken. Sometimes it should be said with a really good bed-side manner but it should still be said.
The most important factor in dealing successfully with others is how we react to them. We control our actions and reactions. We control our responses – positively and negatively.
When someone criticizes us for a change we’ve made, we need to react with love. Either we should shrug it off and not verbally respond or we should smile and say thank you.
Granted, we all need constructive criticism. No one is perfect. We all could be better. Those are not the instances of which we’re addressing here.
When I received the “lost razor” comments, I smiled and said, “I sure did.” I acknowledged the comment, did not take offense and moved on. I could have handled it poorly and said something ungrateful but that would not have been the right thing to do.
Besides how we react to negative comments towards us, we also need to be cognizant of what we say to others. As I said earlier, I’ve been guilty of jokingly using negative comments when addressing others. And, I regret doing so.
When you see someone wearing something new but different, compliment her on it. When you realize a co-worker or family member has a new hair style, compliment her on it.
Let all your thoughts and actions come from a state of grace, abundance and love.
Change is part of the growth process. By definition someone cannot grow intellectually, spiritually, emotionally or physically without change. Change is inevitable.
How we react to change makes the difference in a good or bad life.
Will you let others comments affect you? Or, will you stride forward and live a grateful and abundant life?
Will you be a positive influence on others to help them live their best lives?
Accept change as necessary for growth and grow with it.
Question for you: What did you say to someone today to be a positive influence? Did you compliment instead of criticize? Did you build up instead of tear down?
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