If you have worked in the corporate world, non-corporate world, or honestly, any job at all, you’ve probably heard:
- “Just be professional.”
- “Handle it professionally.”
- “We require professionalism from all our employees.”
Or something of the like. It’s no mystery to most of us that how we handle our interactions in our “professional” lives is a requirement in any shared space. We must handle our disagreements with dignity and respect, we must use words our mothers would be proud to hear us say, or we must act as though our job depended on it (and a lot of times, it does.)
But when your business is also part of your personal life, where does professionalism kick in?
Recently, someone with a personal grudge tried to carry out a vendetta against me. This involved the slandering of my name and business to trusted business colleagues, as well as anonymous slander to people of whom I had little connection with, but ultimately affected my business. This person unapologetically continues to find ways to try to sabotage the very business I’ve been working hard to build, making it difficult to continue growing my customer base. That’s the short version.
Because this was such a personal attack that not only affected my business, but me as a person, it was easy to get caught up in the drama, in the desire to get back or get even. Revenge isn’t even my thing, but when someone lies about me on this level, its hard to not want to throw punches at my pillow. I spent a night screaming into the darkness of my bedroom trying to get out the anger stored inside. I wanted so easily to hate, to hurt, to make this person scared to continue their antics. It would have been easy…
But another wise business woman I look up to spoke to me after receiving her own anonymous letter about me, and told me the best thing I could do it to “let it die.” If only it were that easy, I thought, this thing that has its roots in the naïve interactions of a guy who barely knew what he was doing keeps carrying over into newer and farther connections.
“Let it die.” How do I do that? How do I just forget these acts of vitriol?
“Let it die.” She said one final time.
A breath. “Okay.” And that was the end of it.
And it may not seem like much, but that was a lesson I didn’t know I needed to learn. Her broken record response to my pain was the lesson, and it reminded me of what it sometimes means to be professional. See it, accept it, deal with it, and move on.
In this case, dealing with it meant speaking my truth to reform relationships that had been shattered. Some of those took time, but most people saw me for who I’ve always tried to be: a kind, professional, loving, empathetic person who just wants the best for everyone.
The professional thing for me to do was to do nothing but focus on who I wanted to be, and where I wanted my business to go. Its working, and I’m so happy for the lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Finally, this all reminded me of something my boss said: “You can’t control other people, but you can control how you react to them.”
I hope that resonates with you as much as it did with me. Professionalism isn’t just for the workplace, its for every place, and maybe if we can learn to control how we react to people when they hurt us, we can start to heal relationships instead of poison them.