Monday, November 1, 2010

A Story Around Inadequacy

I was walking into my building yesterday evening from a wonderful (and tiring day) with my sister and my beautiful niece, eating a slice of my favorite pizza in my neighborhood, thinking about a conference call I had to be on in about 43 minutes. As I approached the last flight of stairs in my four-story walk up, I walked into a “conversation” between my Super and my neighbor. The Super has been in the building for about 6 months.

My neighbor (who we call “Nana”) was concerned about the heat which had not been on for an extended period of time, if at all, during the week. She is an older woman who is retired and in the building the majority of the time. She needs heat. The Super, a gentleman, appeared to me as being really aggressive and was raising his voice at Nana. From what I could tell, he felt that because she suggested that there was another way to control the heat, mentioning that in her 30 years in the building she is privy to the fact that there is a button to modify the heat in the basement, that she was insulting him, and trying to tell him how to do his job. He became extremely upset when another tenant and I stepped in, and he even took it so far as to ask the other tenant if her husband was home, to only tell him when he did come out, that he would appreciate it if his wife stayed out of conversations that didn’t directly involve her.

This is what I walked in to. Yeah – I thought the sammmmmme thing! I said to myself, wow what did I just walk into and what am I missing. It started off with him and one woman in the hallway, and it had escalated to 5 of us in the hallway now.

I listened intently to ensure that I wasn’t missing anything. After about 5 minutes I realized I wasn’t missing anything at all. Nana was simply inquiring about the heat, wanting to know when we could expect it to be on, and she mentioned that she is aware of a button that can turn on the heat for the entire building. The Super expressed again that she was trying to tell him how to do his job. We calmly told him that Nana was NOT telling him HOW to do his job, and that she simply wanted to know WHEN he was going to do something about the heat because she was freezing. He still felt offended and could only “hear” his feelings. He kept mentioning, over and over again, that she, and anyone for that matter, should not tell him how to do his job. He kept stating that we should let him talk, yet he would never say more than the fact that she was trying to tell him how to do his job and we won’t let him speak. After about 10 rounds of this I spoke for the last time and said:

Super, you and I have had some very intimate conversations in the past, so I believe you know my true character and that anything I say to you is coming from a place of love because I know how hard you want to ensure that everyone in this building is content and problem-free. I know you are a hard worker. That being said, I offer you this: as a Super, whether you like it or not, you are a customer service representative for the building. It is a tenant’s right to come to you when they have a concern with their unit, or with the building in general. As a matter of fact, management strongly encourages us to speak with the Super first. As such, this is why we come to your door. This is the only reason why we come to your door. What we expect as a result of following management’s request, is that you respond to our concerns respectfully, expediently and honestly. If you cannot do something for whatever reason, we have a right to know this so that we can escalate it to whatever level we need to escalate it to.

At the end of what felt like a 5-hour conversation to no-where, the Super finally informed us that he is not permitted to adjust the heat and that any concerns we have with heat we have to take that up with building management. We thanked him and informed him that as it relates to heat, we will no longer be coming to him because he can’t do anything about it.

Today’s Daily Lesson: Put your ego aside, listen, and then respond from that place. If you listen, you can actually hear the concern(s) being raised, and provide relevant information. Don’t be so attached to what you think you are hearing that you create an unproductive production out of it.
Unraveling Stories, Creating New Possibilities: So what I got out of the “conversation” is that one of the stories that the Super needs to unravel and create something powerful around is his underlying belief that he is not adequate enough to do……..fill in the blank. I am certain that this is not the first time the Super felt this way, whether in this job, another job or in other areas of his life. We were just additional “chess pieces” in HIS chess game.

If you find yourself having the same “types” of situations occurring in your life, I challenge you to not take it out on who you THINK the culprit is, but to rather assess how you are being that someone else is being.

Next Steps: I will check in with Nana and see if she feels the desire to organize around this, and if so, I will support her.

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