relief.

In high school, if a group of girls raved about a song or movie or tv show I had zero interest in, I’d still have to subject myself to it, immediately, to feel accepted. Then I’d probably pretend to like it.

I realized this evening that I don’t have to do this anymore. I’m free!

I mean, I haven’t felt the adolescent compulsion to conform for many years now, but I hadn’t really thought about how completely fantastic this is until tonight.

Getting older and departing from the world beyond high school hallways has many magical qualities, not the least of which is no longer having to have straight blonde hair or watch crappy television to feel valued.

 

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those days.

I really like my job most of the time. How do I define liking it? I enjoy the majority of the people I work with, and the things I get to do. I believe in my company’s mission, and I generally laugh fairly hard at least three times a day. Plus, all I have to do to look at my current position favorably is to reflect on the first job I had after graduating from college, where I would arrive each day and just sit sadly in my car in the parking lot, thinking about how desperately I didn’t want to enter the building. Not just because I worked next to a jail and was terrified of being taken hostage by an escaped inmate, but because I hated everything about that position.

So…yeah. It’s fair to say I like my job. But then, there are those days. Those days where my job and I are no longer on good terms and we begin resenting each other and being high maintenance.

Today? It was one of those days.

So naturally I felt my best option was to call my boss from the airport and proceed to whine, complain, lament and throw an overall pity party. I said lots of angry-young-professional types of things in my most mature voice, like, “I don’t think I’m adding value” and “I don’t understand why people are so rude sometimes.” Really digging deep on my feelings here in case you couldn’t tell.

Anyway, I was completely on the defensive, anticipating he would respond with some canned motivational advice to reassure me. But instead, he totally threw me for a loop. You know how in cheesy fight scenes in 80s movies, someone throws a punch and instead of blocking it, the other person grabs his arm and pulls it forward, totally gaining the upper hand? Well my boss did the professional equivalent of this over the phone, essentially becoming a mentor ninja.

Instead of just trying to make me feel better, he acknowledged that sometimes, no matter how advanced our jobs are and where our careers take us, we all occasionally have dumb, annoying and pointless days. We’re asked to do ridiculous things and sometimes the people we interact with are jerks.

It’s great to get reassurance when you hit a low, and it’s even better to realize you’re being a complete baby with no real reason to complain. Because then you can shrug off your bad mood and enjoy TCBY while sitting on the floor of the airport in dress clothes (because you need to charge your iPhone and the only free power outlet is by a utility closet).

I am fortunate to have a really, really good boss. Lord knows I would never want to manage me, and I certainly wouldn’t want to manage a whole gaggle of millennial females, that sounds heinous. This situation made me realize three things:

1. Things are never as bad as they seem in the heat of the moment. Once you get a chance to vent or eat processed sugar, it’s usually not such a big deal.
2. Smart males know not to always give advice, and that just listening and validating the feelings of an enraged female is the key to success and ending an annoying phone call.
3. I’m lucky to have a job. Really lucky to have one I like. And super lucky to be learning and engaged almost all of the time. No job will be perfect, and many people would kill to do what I do.
4. The meaningful quote I heard today that turned my whole day around, the grass isn’t greener on the other side, it’s greener where you water it, is apparently from a Justin Bieber song, and that is gross.

Since Last Thanksgiving (part 3)

Time for the 2012 installment of Thanksgiving reflections. Here’s what went down in 2011 and 2010.

Since last Thanksgiving I…

Went to Vegas twice, Denver twice, Chicago, Boston, Sedona, Flagstaff and San Francisco.

Had an adult spring break in Lake Havasu.

Celebrated my first wedding anniversary.

Entered the last year of my twenties.

Saw my favorite band perform in three different cities.

Watched a lot of friends get engaged, married and pregnant.

Discovered that I like deviled eggs.

Was published on The Daily Muse, Betty Confidential, Forbes, Forbes Woman, Forbes Tech, Yahoo! Shine and the Today Show websites.

Watched all five seasons of Big Love and all five seasons of Mad Men.

Saw our next-door neighbor’s house burn down, and then be rebuilt.

Presented at a career event at ASU.

Donated plasma and platelets for the first time.

Met Steve Forbes.

Joined a soccer team.

Celebrated a year of being matched with my little sis.

Fell more in love with my husband.

Continued realizing how lucky I am to have my parents as my parents.

Focused more on how good life really is.

Team Not Playing Nicely?

Sometimes I think it’s fun to dole out career advice, you know, because I’m so very wise and experienced good at pretending to be a grown up. But when editors I work with offer up fun topics like this one, it’s hard not to take the bait. There are few things I enjoy more than sharing insights on how to navigate challenging situations, particularly ones that I most certainly messed up the first time I encountered them. This article originally appeared on The Daily Muse: see it here.

We’ve all been there at some point—stuck on a project team that seems more like a scene from Mean Girls than a professional work environment. There’s the manager who won’t listen to anything that’s not part of his plan, or the colleague that seems to snap at everything you say, or—worst of all—the guy who lets everyone know what he thinks about their ideas, using quite a colorful array of profanity.

The truth is, we have to work with all kinds of people in our careers, and despite our best intentions, sometimes personalities clash more dramatically than outfits in an LMFAO video. But instead of running for the hills when things get tense, try the techniques below to rise above any drama and find peace with your teammates.

1. If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say…

Simple advice? Definitely. But we’ve all heard it so many times before because it’s an important rule—and one that’s often overlooked.

When a co-worker is acting inappropriately or challenging you on something, avoid stooping to her level. I know—when emotions are running high, it can be tempting to make a snide remark or engage in a back-and-forth argument, but take a few minutes to relax and regroup before you react.

Try a line like, “I understand your concerns and definitely want to talk this through with you. Why don’t we both take some time to cool off a bit and reconnect in an hour in the break room?” This validates the other person’s feelings and addresses the disagreement, but gives you both some space to simmer before you have an important conversation. And allowing yourself some time to process or vent to a trusted colleague helps you recollect your thoughts and respond more professionally when the time is right.

2. Kill ’em With Kindness

I’ll admit it, I learned this in my sorority years, and have always found it to be a great way to surprise someone during a conflict and redirect the conversation. When prompted with a hostile question or harsh feedback, responding with humility and a calm, measured tone is a surefire way to regain control of the situation and bring it down to a more comfortable level.

One way to do this is by controlling any sort of emotional reaction, and simply smiling and offer a polite response. (“You know, you’re right, this is a pretty bad location for a meeting—the acoustics in this room are terrible. Maybe you can help me find a better place for our next team event.”)

Chances are, it will totally disarm the negative energy that was headed your way. Most of the time, when people enter a conversation aggressively, they’re coming from a place of fear or insecurity. Reacting in a way that is non-confrontational and accommodating usually catches the other person so off guard, she’s immediately more open to hearing your side of the story and working together to find a solution.

3. Take it Outside

Well, maybe not literally, but if you can’t seem to strike a chord with a co-worker, try to get together somewhere other than a conference room or your sterile office. Go to lunch, happy hour, or even for a walk. A change in scenery can help de-escalate a hard conversation and allow you to talk things through in a neutral environment.

I was once completely taken aback when a team member confronted me in front of several others; she had misunderstood my actions on a really important project and was furious with me. Instead of hashing it out with an audience, I asked her if we could finish the conversation privately, and we ended up talking things out while we walked around our corporate campus. As soon as we left our workspace, she seemed to unwind a bit—plus, walking while talking eliminated any awkwardness of a face-to-face debate.

4. Don’t Take it Personally

Bottom line? It’s work. We’re all there for a reason, and the things we end up in conflict over often have little to do with us personally. So when things are a little upsetting or get you fired up, put that passion to good use. Invest it in your work and in finding common ground with your team instead of wasting time and energy in arguments or debates. You’ll shine as a leader and gain the respect of those around you as someone who can succeed in any situation.

When you think about it, we spend more time with co-workers than with most of our friends or family members, so getting along with them makes life a heck of a lot easier. Conflict among teams and individuals is a natural part of working together, but learning how to quickly and effectively resolve issues is a true key to productivity. It’s not always easy, but it’s absolutely worth the investment.

An open letter to my dog

Dear Molly,

I’ve tried talking to you about this, but I’ve found that frankly – you aren’t always open to listening. Sometimes I swear you even pretend to be asleep when I lecture you, which is entertainingly clever, but also frustrating. You see, I have a problem with the way you crowd me when I try to work on my laptop. I understand that you enjoy snuggling, and that your sole joy in life is licking my face, but you are – how do I say this politely – a little heavier than I think you realize. It’s your pitbull genetics, surely not your diet, but it makes it a little awkward to have on top of me while I’m trying to type. It dawned on me recently that maybe you’re just doing your part to support awareness of your breed, and the fact that pits have a false reputation for being aggressive (I know, hard to believe for me, too). You are indeed a motivating ambassador for this effort, with your incredibly gentle nature, but dude – I’m already on your side. You don’t have to pin me to the couch and wag your tail until it knocks over my water glass to prove this. I’m hoping we can reach some sort of compromise moving forward. Maybe we designate a certain amount of time for snuggles every night, but then when I sit down to write, you spend some time doing doggie things and give me some space. I promise this is more about me than you, and it’s definitely not your breath. And I hope this helps explain why sometimes I have to put you outside in the yard at night, and discourages you from howling like a rabid wolf when I do so. On the same token, when you feel like you really need a walk or human food, I’ll do my best to make it happen. I love you dear puppy, and only want to make sure we’re both respectful of each others’ needs.

Love,

Jess