Advice for Those “This Can’t Be Happening” Moments

I received an email Sunday night from one of my CEO’s who had embarked on an 8-day business trip only to discover, on arrival at her first destination, that her luggage was missing: clothes, shoes, medication, contacts, research material….You name it; it was gone.

What to do? (Aside from double-checking the limits on your credit cards…) A few thoughts:

Stick with “What’s so” rather than “Why???”

In these moments, it’s incredibly easy to begin exacerbating your upset by beating yourself up with an internal monologue along the lines of, “Why did I do X???” “If only I’d done Y!!!” This is not going to help you. This is only going to make you feel worse about yourself. Stick with the facts. In this case, the luggage is gone. Now what?

Get Quiet:

When something suddenly goes awry, my first instinct is to run around like a chicken with my head cut off, soliciting advice, etc from everyone I know. Here’s what I’ve learned, however: Don’t. This wastes your time and – depending whom you call—may leave you feeling worse about yourself. Instead, stop. Sit. In extreme cases assume the “crash” position so beloved of airplane manuals – put your head between your knees. Get some blood to your brain. Breathe.

Now Ask for Help:

Hopefully, the time spent in your fetal position was helpful. With luck, it has cleared your head and you have thought of the one or two people who might actually be able to address the situation, rather than simply commenting on it. Reach out to them. There’s no need to be a hero. People like to help.

Apologize Once and Move On:

If what has occurred inconveniences others, please don’t go on and on and on about it. All this does is add tension to people you’ve already inconvenienced; they now either have to spend time reassuring you it’s OK, or get into it with you– and then nobody’s happy.

Finally, in the case of my CEO, I advised her to go buy a nice bottle of perfume. In my experience, few things do more to boost confidence. (I mean, how bad can it be when I smell like Chanel No. 19?)

I hope these notes are helpful the next time you find yourself in a “This Can’t Be Happening…” moment.

Frances Cole Jones