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“Calmness is the cradle of power” – Josiah Gilbert Holland
Last week at work I received an odd text from my son asking if he could cut down one of the beautiful River Birch trees in my garden. He wanted the wood for some carving projects. You can guess what my response was – no one messes with my garden! Little did I know why he was asking and how my week would go…….
Our local power company came for a neighborhood visit, which happens once every 15 years, looking for trees and foliage that may interfere with power lines. You guessed it, they decided that 13 of my trees had to be removed because they were within a 15 foot easement they have. Mind you that even though we have 6 acres, 15 feet is into my garden because our acreage runs lengthwise. You guessed it – I flipped out. The trees that they were referencing were at the most 10 feet tall, a long way from growing into our 25 foot high power line. I plant with a purpose and am always precise in what I plant and where knowing that eventually everything gets moved in my yard. I planted for privacy and beauty. I just didn’t see how my 3 foot Colorado Blue Spruce is an issue now.
You may not be a gardener however, envision your favorite hobby and how you would react if someone came in to put the brakes on enjoying your passion. Love riding motorcycles? Sorry, you can only ride between 2 pm and 6 pm. Enjoy running? Sorry, you can’t run on the road and have to stay 8 feet off the sidewalks – those are for walkers. You get my point.
It’s probably a good thing that I wasn’t home when Dan from the power company dropped in last week. In fact, the holiday weekend offered me a chance to cool off to plot my next steps. After a few days of phone tag we set up a meeting in my garden so that I could talk him out of being the Hachette Man in 2 short weeks. I even went so far as to move three 5 foot conifers in the dead of winter. That was not an easy task in the Midwest.
Dan I met and toured the yard. My immediate aim was to have a collaborative working relationship. It was tough, but I wanted to hear his viewpoint knowing that going off on the electric guy wouldn’t help me any. I explained the passion for my garden, my reasons for intentionally planting what I did where, and my habit of always moving plants around in my garden. He in turn explained his thoughts and we really collaborated on how we could come to an agreement. Dan gave me until June to move some of my treasures and gave me some tips.
Dan the electric guy and I learned a lot from each other in our 40 minutes. He learned about new tree species and had a glimpse into the mind of a zany gardener. Here’s what I learned:
· When you are angry keep your mouth zipped. Give yourself time for information to sink in, to reflect, and think of your next steps. How many times have you neglected to do this and regretted it? I waited a day to call Dan back and I’m glad that I did.
· Really get to know others in every interaction. Start with building dialog and a relationship. It will even the playing field and help set the tone for future interactions. I saw an opportunity to ask Dan for advice on getting into the forestry industry because my son loves the woods and nature. Dan’s passion for his job quickly kicked in.
· Always place your views on the back burner and really put yourself in someone else’s place. Don’t always make everything about you. Listen to others, grasp their main points, and be willing to openly discuss your differences. It’s not easy to do particularly if you tend to be strong willed.
· Offer solutions where you will both win. Dan extended the time that my trees will be removed from 2 weeks to June. That’s a win for me. In the end we agreed that the power company will remove all the tagged trees (about 8 now) and I will move 3 more of them in spring.
· Assume positive intent on behalf of others. I love this phrase and have tried to burn it into my mind. Years ago I would not have always given others the benefit of the doubt. When negative events popped up I would too often think negatively. It’s not easy to do!
· Be positive and optimistic even when you don’t feel like it. Once you start thinking positive you believe it. Once you believe it you radiate positivity to others and conversations change.
· Respect the position of others. I was initially steamed at Dan. To me he WAS the power company. We are all in the “position” of delivering unpopular news at one time or another. Remember to separate the person from their job. Treat people how you would like to be treated. Far too often I have been yelled at because of my job and it does hurt.
· Be human. Is it that hard?
Despite my fiasco with the power company it turned into a positive experience. Am I upset that my trees are being taken out when they really don’t need to yet? Yes! But guess what? I have an opportunity to start fresh and bring some new life into my garden. I love change and can’t wait until the snow melts to get started.
What have you learned lately from an every day interaction?