Frustration and irritation at the workplace is not unusual, but situations can be tackled in two different ways.
“Really?! How hard can it be? Get it together and get it done!” I hadn’t said those words yet, but I felt like I was on the verge. I was boiling with irritation and exasperation, which I found nearly impossible to keep inside. My colleague had agreed to fetch some important equipment quite a while ago, for a patient who was lying in bed waiting for it; yet, here she sat, still looking at her computer screen and dilly-dallying.
Suddenly a little thought hit me – an analogy: There are two ways to get through the ice. Either you can hack and chip your way through, or you can warm up the ice until it melts.
I squirmed in my chair. This didn’t apply right now, I thought! I had every right to tell her that enough was enough! I felt the cutting words start to well up, but then I envisioned an ice covered field through which someone had hacked a path. In my mind’s eye I could see that the ice was full of “gashes,” splinters and jagged edges, with shards of ice strewn all along the way. Wouldn’t my colleague also feel this way if I just “chopped away” with all of my good arguments, telling her that she had met the limit?
There are two ways to get through the ice. Either you can hack and chip your way through, or you can warm up the ice until it melts.
I stopped and thought about it one more time. I envisioned how the icy field would look if someone had melted through it with warmth: it would have an even, smooth surface, without harsh edges and shards of ice everywhere. Hmm. Could it be worth taking the extra time?
Perhaps I hadn’t been clear enough in my request? It certainly wasn’t a life or death matter that needed to be taken care of immediately. Perhaps the method of using warmth might be more helpful, for my colleague, the patient and, not least, for myself? But how? I thought. It was not so easy to turn my thoughts around in the opposite direction. How could I actually help my colleague, instead of having the opposite effect on her?
I decided to apply this analogy as literally as I could. I got her a hot cup of coffee, and took it over to her. “How are things going?” I asked as naturally as I could.
“Oh, thank you! Yes, oh dear, sorry I haven’t had a chance to do what you asked, but I had to check on some blood tests and a few other things first. Thanks you so much for your thoughtfulness and patience! It is always so nice working together with you!” The ice had been broken; not least for me.
“Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.” 1 Pet. 3:8-9