I heard a story yesterday from my friend, Apollo, about a time in his life when we was hired to coach a kid who was just starting out doing a tech support job. I will call the kid "Squirt".
Squirt was competent and reasonably honest but had a lot to learn about attitude and how to deliver good service. One day, following a call with a customer, Apollo walked Squirt back through the content of the call review how it went. During this chat, Squirt referred to the customer as, "such a douche" and Apollo had to set him straight. (In fact, Squirt was totally wrong in this case and the customer had a valid grievance)
Not long after, Squirt was picking Apollo's brain on how to go about asking the boss for a raise. Apollo, rather diplomatically, didn't say exactly what he was thinking. Instead he had cautioned Squirt that it was much too early. If Squirt was going to make a plea for more money, his case was pretty weak. While he might be able to make a claim on cost of living, he most certainly hadn't yet arrived at a point where he could justify a raise on merit.
Apollo asked what it was all about. As they discussed Squirt's cost of living, Apollo learned that Squirt had been living in an apartment with a deadbeat ex-girlfriend that had cheated on him and, in addition to not working, was not paying any part of the rent or living expenses. And she was seeing another man.
My sense of humor overtook my listening for a moment: I had interrupted Apollo's story to ask about Squirt's parents. Where were they in this picture? Did they deserve a punch to the face? I kind of imagined that they did.
But Apollo was pretty sure they didn't. Somewhere between Squirt's upbringing and this situation something went wrong. He said that Squirt had parents that were trying to give him the right advice but, for whatever reason, he couldn't quite hear them out.
How lucky for Squirt that he got a mentor like Apollo. How lucky that they talked about topics beyond the scope of the job. How lucky Apollo's advice found willing ears. Squirt ditched the ex-girlfriend, told the woman to have her new boyfriend pay for things. Squirt moved back in with his folks and that solved some of his problems on cost of living.
And that's the end of the tale of Apollo and Squirt. (Stories in life don't end with happily ever after. They are the beginnings of the next story arc.)
Two Things I Notice
Where do the young learn self-esteem? Where do they learn integrity? Where do they learn the value of hard work? If they are lucky, they have an Apollo to teach them, or families and friends that can still reach them.
Thank goodness for people like my buddy, Apollo. He helped Squirt to discover within himself his own capacity for integrity and humility.
I hate to think of anyone choosing the indignity of being a doormat to manipulative people, as Squirt was for his ex-girlfriend.
How is it that he never learned how to deal with these kinds of people?
Did he fear confrontation?
Did he fear destroying his self-image?
How much time would it have saved if Squirt had been able to actually hear what his parents had to say? For whatever reason, families tend to develop some muscle-memory that prevents important discussions.
The story of an obviously bad relationship that no one can talk another person out of is a story that is surprisingly common and usually pretty boring. Why is this common in our culture?
Is there a way to practice tone/approach for families so that an emergency channel is available for those discussions that happen when it really matters?
I hope so.