My friend Marta and I met last Friday for dinner. She wanted to talk about her week, all of it bad, she said. It started out with an irate, time consuming, late-paying client showing up at her office unexpected. And it ended with an employee not showing up for work and a friend who wanted to borrow money accusing Marta of being selfish and inconsiderate when she refused. And there were a number of minor but irritating incidents that happened in between.
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I listened while she related all of the details and I told her a story that was told to me by an East Indian friend of mine:.
One day a man watched a scorpion crawl around the edge of a pond. It fell in. The man reached down to pull it out . . . And was greeted by a painful sting. He jerked his arm out of the water, let out a painful groan, and began to rub his wound.
He looked back into the pond and saw the scorpion fighting for its life. Even with the pain he felt, he couldn’t watch the thing die. Sure enough, his second rescue attempt prompted another sting. The intense pain brought tears to his eyes, and he dropped the scorpion again. Then he started to reach into the water a third time.
A passerby, watching this, interjected: “What do you think you’re doing?”.
To which the good Samaritan answered: “I can’t just leave it there to die while knowing I could have helped.”.
“Can’t you see what’s happening here?” The observer said. “You can’t save the scorpion without bringing harm to yourself! It is the nature of the scorpion to sting.”.
Like the scorpion, it is the nature of some people to “sting” even when we are giving them our best. This holds true with people in both our business and personal lives: clients, customers, employees, so-called friends and, yes, even relatives. There are some people who you cannot help without harming yourself.
As I told Marta, sometimes we have to stop and take a look at our surroundings and flush out the hidden scorpions. They usually take the form of late payers, folks making unreasonable requests — people who take up huge blocks of your time insisting that you take care of their “special needs.” And let’s not forget those who drop their venom on your hopes and dreams with unsolicited, negative comments.
Sometimes they are drowning in their own private misery, and the more we help, the harder they will bite! They are time, money and attention bandits with the uncanny ability to make us feel guilty while they sting us.
And sometimes we find ourselves holding on when we should let go. As my dinner with Marta concluded I reminded her that much of our suffering in life is due to our inability to let go. And when you find these scorpion types in your environment, take a few deep breaths and let them GO! Let them go, without any feelings of guilt. . After all, unlike the scorpion of the parable, your help is not a matter of actual life and death to them.
Many entrepreneurs fear telling that stinging scorpion client or associate goodbye will have an impact on their business. They are absolutely correct! Your business and your personal life can actually become more efficient and more prosperous with fewer stings to you, the nurse.
Marta took a deep breath and agreed.
Gladys Edmunds, founder of Edmunds Travel Consultants in Pittsburgh, is an author and coach/consultant in business development. Her column appears Wednesdays. E-mail her at [email protected]. An archive of her columns is here. Her website is gladysedmunds.Com.
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