Ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
One day - this was around the holidays a few years ago - I happened to go downstairs at work to do a lap. To give this some context, I'm one of those weird people who need to move and, literally, thinks better on their feet. So throughout the day I'll do quick laps around the office to keep those creative juices flowing. Anyway, as I was finishing my lap and heading up the stairs a coworker, Janice, yelled after me, "Mike, are you okay?"
"What?" was my witty and well thought out reply.
"You look a little down, is everything okay?"
"Really? I didn't think it was that obvious. I'm just not having the best day." I thanked her for asking and tried to sneak up stairs - two steps at a time, something I learned going to an all-guy prep school - in order to avoid anyone else chiming in.
Someone else chimed in.
"Mike's having a bad day? Mike, come back downstairs and let us know what's going on,"
I explained that I had a meeting that didn't go as planned and that I wasn't feeling much like myself. I went on to share that I was having a bad day, but that it would be okay and that I appreciated their concern.
"Mike, it’s GREAT that you're having a bad day," was Janice's response, said with the biggest smile that would make the Cheshire cat jealous.
With my own smile, albeit a shocked one, I joked, "I'm SO glad my bad day is bringing you such joy."
Then she blasted me with some truth: "No, that's not what I mean. What I mean is that it's good for us to see that you are human. You walk around so positive all the time, sometimes it's hard to reconcile that you're like us. You having a bad day makes you much more relate-able."
This stopped me in my tracks and after I picked myself up off the floor I said, "Wow. Thank you."
You see, Janice was right. As a trainer and a coach, it was my natural urge to approach all situations with humor, positivity and enthusiasm. And, while I had much success in doing so, I didn't realize that the very thing I was doing to connect with others had a half-life, meaning that it worked to a point, but once that bundle of positivity reached a certain threshold it had the opposite effect: It started to push people away. My mind was blown. I have to wonder how often we do this in all areas of our life: we act how we "think" we should, often compromising our current state or emotions, when, in reality, by limiting our emotional spectrum we are actually hurting those relationships we are trying to cultivate and those people we are trying to lead.
Now, this isn't a prescription for depression and venting. I'm definitely not saying you should go gossip with your co-workers and direct reports or that you should call your special someone every day and lay out the recipe of horribleness that your day happened to contain. What I am suggesting is that people want the people in their lives to be just that: people. They want them to be well-rounded and, most importantly, human.
So here's this week's challenge: don't be afraid to be human. If you are in a position of power, it's okay to admit that today wasn't your favorite. If you're in a relationship, share that the day didn't go your way or that your upset about something. If you're a parent, share with your child that you're having difficulty with a decision or that you cheated on your diet. The trick - the hard part - is to not stay there. Whatever you say has to be balanced with a solution, a bright side or, at the very least, a silver lining. In other words, let the dents in your armor show, but then also demonstrate your plan to polish them up so they can shine too.